Justice Mojisola Olatoregun has recused from the trial of Ayodele Fayose, a former governor of Ekiti State, over an altercation between the judge and a counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Adamu Abdu-kafarati, the chief justice of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, withdrew the case from justice Olatoregun following EFCC's petition asking that the judge hands off the case.
The chief judge conveyed the transfer of the trial from Justice Olatoregun to Justice C. J. Anekei in a letter dated May 23, 2019.
“I refer to the petition of EFCC on this case and your Lordship’s comments thereto. It is apparent that the prosecution has lost confidence in the judge trying this case and justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done, I hereby transfer this case to Hon. Justice C. J. Aneke for hearing,” the letter read.
The EFCC before now, had called 13 out of the 15 witnesses listed in the trial, which started last November and had enjoyed accelerated hearing.
The EFCC had in a petition dated March 21, 2019 and signed by Magu, asked Justice Abdu-Kafarati to transfer the trial to another judge.
Magu noted that EFCC was withdrawing its confidence in the trial judge after the altercation between her and the EFCC counsel in open court on March 20, 2019.
On that day, a drama ensued midway into the hearing between the trial judge and the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), when the judge raised concerns over the failure of the prosecution to tender the complete three pages of the statement of one of the witnesses.
The judge noted that the prosecution was not doing a good job.
She had said: “Mr Jacobs, you dare not, you are not competent to look into my ruling, to evaluate my ruling, you are totally incompetent, whether you are a Senior Advocate or not. You can only go on appeal, Mr Jacobs. Your mode of advocacy, I do not understand it. It looks like - what do they call it? - Jankara market.
“You stand here to re-evaluate my ruling. You are incompetent to do that. You do not stand there with impetus and re-evaluate my ruling. I have ruled, relying on two sections of the Evidence Act, if you have an objection, you go on appeal. You have no competence, carrying your wig with arrogance and we have a lot of young lawyers here. What are you teaching them. You stand up to a judge, re-evaluating the ruling of a judge. It will not happen in my court! Your re-examine your witness; if you are not re-examining, then close your case.”
Also, a day after, EFCC petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking transfer of the trial to another judge.
Despite the EFCC petition, the trial continued on May 12, 2019, with a prosecution witness causing a stir in the court when he told the court that he did not move cash from Afao Ekiti, Fayose’s hometown, on June 16, 2014, and that the two vehicles he used to drive in Zenith Bank were grounded on that day.
On May 21, 2018, the trial was further adjourned until June 10 as Justice Mojisola Olatoregun was away on official assignment.