THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is set to slam fresh charges against the embattled former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, who is standing trial for fraudulent practices during his tenure as leader of the state.
The trial of Daniel, who ruled the state between 2003 and 2007, was to commence yesterday but when proceedings began, the EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, told the trial judge, Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje, that based on his new ‘discovery’, he would need time to amend the charges substantially.
According to him, “we now have comprehensive allegation against him (Daniel)”.
Among the earlier allegations when Daniel first appeared in court on October 12, 2011, were that he fraudulently converted $1 million from the Ogun State domiciliary account with FCMB to acquire shares in 21st Century Technology Limited.
Daniel was also alleged to have fraudulently converted the Judges’ Quarters in Sagamu, Ogun State, to his personal use by building his private house, known as Asoludero Court, on the property and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 434 of the Criminal Code Law, CAP 29, Laws of Ogun State, 1978.
Daniel’s lead counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), yesterday did not oppose Jacob’s request. Osipitan is leading 14 other lawyers, including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), to defend Daniel. The SANs are Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye and Mrs. Titilola Akinlawon.
Jacob, explaining the need for his request, argued “he (Daniel) was arraigned the other time in October because of the constitutional requirements that say that he (Daniel) had to be charged to court within a reasonable time, within 48 hours and as a result of the constitutional requirements, we had to rush here (court). While the investigations continued, we were able to establish that there was a case against him and now when the investigations are about being concluded, we have very comprehensive allegations against him”.
Security yesterday in and around the Isabo, Abeokuta court premises, was very tight. Unlike the first sitting when hundreds of people gathered around the court premises, only very few people who went through thorough searching were allowed into the court. Besides, no one was allowed to stay anywhere near the court.
Daniel was yet to arrive when proceedings began at 9.00 a.m. He arrived eight minutes later and his lead counsel apologised on his behalf, ascribing the lateness to a flat tyre, which Daniel had on his way to the court. Justice Mabekoje adjourned the case to November 28, 2011.
Jacob told journalists later: “It is necessary for us to amend the charges, bring all that we have before the court so that we can give him (defendant) sufficient time to also study what we have. So that is the reason for it. We also have our witness in court, who we have prepared and who is able to go ahead with the case today. But the accused person preferred to see all these things against him before proceeding to trial and we agreed that we should adjourn. That is why the case was adjourned”.
Osipitan, while speaking with journalists, stated: “The prosecution know what they are looking for and what they need to prove their case. We would have to wait for them patiently, let them come with their documents. We would look at it, go back to the drawing board and adopt the appropriate strategy”.
He added: “The prosecutor is ready but those who are investigating were not ready before they came to court. They arrested him first before they began their investigations and as I speak to you, I am aware that they are still investigating, hoping that before November 28, they will finish their investigation. But the law that I know is that you investigate first before you arrest. But in this case, they arrested first and were looking for documents, and arresting everybody. We would wait for them patiently and when they come, we’ll take them on”.
Osipitan, who sounded confident that his client has a good case, affirmed: “We want to show the whole world that we have nothing to fear and to hide. We want them to come and ventilate all their grievances, let them come and put in their documents. We don’t want to shut out anybody when they come with their documents and we see them, we would adopt the strategy that their documents deserve”.