A fifth prosecution witness, Musiliu Obanikoro, in the ongoing fraud trial against former governor Ayodele Fayose, on Tuesday, said that he was informed two years ago that his late Special Assistant (SA), Justin Erukaa, died in an accident.
Mr Obanikoro gave the evidence in continuation of his cross-examination by a second defence counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN), at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Mr Fayose, the immediate-past governor of Ekiti State, was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on an 11-count charge.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million, with one surety in like sum.
EFCC had opened the case for prosecution on November 19, 2018, and had called four witnesses.
On January 21, 2018, the prosecution called its fifth witness, Mr Obanikoro, a former minister of state for defence.
At the last adjourned date on February 5, Mr Obanikoro was still under cross-examination by the second defence counsel, (Ojo), who had sought to tender the extrajudicial statement of Justin Erukaa, made to EFCC in the course of their investigation.
In reaction, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, had objected to the admissibility of the said statement, on the grounds that counsel was seeking to tender the document from the Bar, with which he wants to contradict a witness from the Bar.
Mr Jacobs cited the provisions of Section 232 and 233 of the Evidence Act, arguing that the approach was wrong.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had consequently ordered counsel to address the court on the admissibility of such extrajudicial statement made by a person interrogated during the course of the investigation and who is not standing trial.
Parties had addressed the court on February 7, after which the judge reserved ruling.
In her ruling delivered on Monday (yesterday), the court had admitted the extrajudicial statement of the late Erukaa and marked the same as Exhibit J.
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, Mr Ojo (SAN) continued his cross-examination with Obanikoro, who has been in the witness box since January.
Ojo asked him: “Do you remember your statement on Exhibit G2 made on Oct. 8, 2018?’’
Obanikoro replied: “I will have to see that to acknowledge.’’
After being shown the exhibit, Mr Ojo asked: “In exhibit G2, you specifically stated that you were not privy to any discussion between the first defendant and the former NSA.’’
Mr Obainokoro replied: “That is correct.’’
Mr Ojo: “I suggest that because you were not privy to any such conversation, you can’t on your oath tell the court any date or time of such alleged conversation.’’
The witness replied: “Correct.’’
Mr Ojo: “In the same Exhibit G2, you categorically said that Justin Erukaa died after he had made Exhibit J.’’ The witness replied: “That’s correct’’.
“This Justin Erukaa who was one of your Special Assistants, can you tell the court how you got to know about his death, after making Exhibit J.’’
Mr Obanikoro: “He left Lagos a day before Sallah about two years ago, and the police called one of my SAs that the owner of the phone just had an accident and died on the spot, and he immediately called me and informed me.
Mr Ojo: “Do you remember on February 4, you told the court that you could not recall whether or not Justin Erukaa made any statement to the operatives of the EFCC?’’
Witness: “Yes, I said so.’’
The defence counsel then urged that Exhibit J be showed to the witness and then he asked him, “What is Exhibit J and Obanikoro replied: “It is a statement.
Defence counsel: “Whose name appears as the maker or author of Exhibit J?’’
Witness replied: “Justin Erukaa.’’
Defence counsel: “Did you attend the burial of Justin Erukaa?’’
Witness: “I was there with my family.’’
Finally, Mr Ojo asked the witness if any document was provided to the EFCC operatives in the course of interrogation to back any of his statements before the court concerning the second defendant?
The witness replied: “No.’’
With this last question, Mr Ojo informed the court that he had finished his cross-examination of Obanikoro.
Mr Obanikoro, consequently, stepped down from the witness box.