Three months after the trial of former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, was adjourned to enable him travel abroad for medical attention, proceedings resumed at an Abeokuta High Court on Monday.
The proceedings began with a motion filed by Daniel, urging Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje to strike out counts One to 13, which deal with the allegation of fraudulent conversion/allocation of land in Ogun State.
The motion signed by Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, Tayo Oyetibo, Otunba Kunle Kalejaiye, Titilayo Akinlawon, who are all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and Ojo Akinwale, urged that alternatively the court should give an order staying all further proceedings in respect of counts One-13 of the information pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The motion also pleaded that “alternatively” the court should give an order adjourning the trial of this charge/information indefinitely until the determination of the suit.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had in October last year preferred a 38-count charge bordering on fraudulent activities during Daniel’s eight-year tenure as governor of Ogun State.
Osipitan is leading 16 other lawyers to defend Daniel while Rotimi Jacob (SAN), is leading two others on behalf of the EFCC.
At the court on Monday, Justice Mabekoje read a letter sent to the court by the office of the Divisional Police Officer, Ibara, Abeokuta Police Station denying an allegation that Daniel’s camp threatened the life of the first prosecuting witness in the case, Mr. Adeluola Babatunde.
Jacob had at one of the sittings alleged that Babatunde was absent in court because at his first appearance, some persons believed to be supporters of Daniel had threatened his life through text messages, warning him to desist from giving evidence against Daniel.
Based on the allegation, Justice Mabekoje ordered police investigations.
But the letter from the police, which the judge read, indicated: “The witness has maintained that he was not threatened by anybody, directly, during or after the court proceedings. Based on this, the issue on the allegation is closed.”
Jacob’s request that he should be given a week to reply to the motion because he was served at the court only on MOnday morning was approved by Justice Mabekoje.
The third witness to appear in the case, Mr. Sunday Esezobor, a staff of the Zenith Bank, testified on Monday, disclosing how a company, Kristal Laurel, owned by Daniel, between 2004 and 2010, at different times deposited various sums of money, either in cash or cheque into an account, which Daniel was the sole signatory.
The monies deposited were between N9.7 million and N21.2 million.
During the proceedings, strong arguments arose between Osipitan and Jacob on whether the N21.2 million deposit, which was not part of the “counts”, should be admitted in evidence.
Osipitan argued that since it was not part of the counts, it should be ignored.
But Jacob, citing legal authorities, insisted that by law, it must be admitted.
After a prolonged argument, Justice Mabekoje overruled Osipitan’s objection.
During cross examination by Osipitan, Daniel’s lead counsel, Esezobor (the witness), told the court that he wouldn’t know if the monies deposited were Daniel’s personal monies or that of Kristal Laurel.
He also said he could not tell whether the said account was “suspicious” or not.
Justice Mabekoje urged both the defence and plaintiff counsel to file written addresses on the motion.
Jacob was given one week to write his response on the motion, after which Osipitan would reply on point of law.
Mabekoje adjourned the case to November 9 for continuation of trial.