Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos has threatened to jail former Minister of State for Defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.
The presiding judge said this when the N2.2bn fraud trial of the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, was stalled on Thursday due to the absence of the prosecution’s star witness, Obanikoro.
The prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the judge that Obanikoro, who was in court only on Tuesday testifying against Fayose, had been hospitalised.
Jacobs presented to the court a medical report from an Ikoyi hospital, stating that Obanikoro was unwell.
But receiving the report with misgivings, the jduge said it had better been genuine or the hospital and the doctor that issued it risked the loss of their licences, if the court verified the report and it was not genuine.
While adjourning the case till March 18, Justice Olatoregun said Obanikoro must unfailingly come to court, or risked being committed to prison for three months, “so that he can be coming to court in Black Maria.”
“He must present himself before the court on the next adjourned date or be compelled to do so,” Justice Olatoregun stressed.
Concise News reports that in court on Monday, Obanikoro said despite testifying against Fayose, he wouldn’t want their relationship to be destroyed.
At a point in the course of being grilled by the defence counsel, Obanikoro burst out, “I’m trying to restrain myself from saying things that will further damage our relationship.”
But pushing him further, Ojo asked, “So, will it be correct to say that you are giving evidence in this case reluctantly?”
Obanikoro said, “It’s painful for me to give evidence against him (Fayose); no doubt about it. It is indeed very painful.”
The EFCC is prosecuting Fayose for allegedly taking N2.2bn from the office of the National Security Adviser for his governorship election in 2014.
The EFCC said Fayose received the money from then-NSA, Sambo Dasuki, through Obanikoro.
At the previous hearing, Obanikoro admitted receiving N2.2bn from Dasuki for onward delivery to Fayose in Ado Ekiti, adding that on Fayose’s instructions, a part of the money was changed into US dollars before delivery.
Under cross-examination by the second defence counsel on Monday, Obanikoro affirmed that he took the money to Fayose in Ado Ekiti as a leader, who was carrying out a mission for his party.
Obanikoro told the court that the N2.2bn he took from Dasuki on Fayose’s behalf was paid into the account of a firm, Sylvan Mcmanara Ltd, owned by one Taiwo Kareem.
Asked what informed the choice of that bank account, Obanikoro said, “We came about that company based on the fact that they made a presentation to then-NSA when the issue of security arose in Lagos and he was convinced that they had the capacity to do the job.”
The former minister said it was Dasuki that appointed Kareem as the sole signatory to the account.