A key witness at the on-going trial of the former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, failed to show up in court on Tuesday alleging threat to his life by the former governor.
Adeluola Babatunde, an official of Skye Bank Plc who managed the accounts of Blue Chapel Nigeria Ltd, a company through which Mr. Daniel allegedly siphoned state funds, was presented as the first witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Mr. Babatunde gave his first witness account early last month, presenting bank documents to support his account.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, however, the witness did not show up and a medical report was presented as an excuse. The medical report tendered in court from Solar Medical and Dental Centre, Abeokuta, described Mr. Babatunde’s ailment as “headache, fever, abdominal pain and elevated blood pressure”.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, told the court that shortly after the previous sitting, the witness became a subject of death threats, hence his fear to honour further appearances.
Mr. Jacob said he had been informed by the Investigating Police Officer that the witness has been receiving phone calls from strange people believed to be linked to the accused, warning him to cease from witnessing against the accused.
The attorney said that following this development, the witness has expressed reluctance to continue his testimony. Mr. Jacob also said the witness believes that reporting the matter to the police in Abeokuta would further endanger his life.
“Your Lordship, shortly after you stepped down at the last sitting, the prosecutor witness began receiving death threat messages that if he continues to give evidence, he would be killed.
“Only this morning, a counsel brought a medical letter about him. This confirms the fear that he is being threatened as earlier informed us,” Mr. Rotimi said.
In response, counsel to the accused, Tayo Oyetibo, said the prosecutor’s submission is faulty. He further accused the EFCC of threatening the witness.
Mr. Oyetibo claimed that the EFCC has been threatening Skye Bank to support the commission in the trial to ensure that the accused is indicted, and with the refusal of the bank to succumb, the prosecution witness now became the target of elimination by the commission.
“The man is afraid of his life. Who is not afraid of EFCC? The allegation must not be swept under the carpet. The IPO must be disclosed. The preliminary investigation this morning shows that it is the prosecutor threatening the witness because he is not cooperating with them. We are ready to continue with the case, if EFCC has other witnesses,” he said.
Mr. Daniel has been arraigned at a High Court in Ogun State on a 38 count charge over the alleged misappropriation of about N200million.
The presiding Judge, Olanrewaju Mabekoje, in his ruling, gave the EFCC another opportunity to present the witness. He fixed further hearing on the matter for June 29, July 9 and July 12.