Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday threatened to order the arrest of former minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro for being absent.
The absence of Obanikoro, who is testifying for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial of former Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, stalled the continuation of his cross-examination.
EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said Obanikoro took ill and was admitted.
“I called him yesterday (Wednesday) to notify him about today’s (yesterday’s) proceedings. He said he thought he would be discharged on Wednesday (when the court did not sit).
“This morning (Thursday) I couldn’t reach him on phone. But his Special Assistant came and informed me that Obanikoro was in the hospital receiving treatment,” he said.
When the judge asked for a medical report, Jacobs submitted one given him by Obanikoro’s aide.
But the judge appeared unconvinced by the report.
She said Obanikoro had a civic obligation to be in court to continue with his testimony.
“If I want to pursue it, the medical doctor may lose his license for issuing this report. But I will accept this because you (Jacobs) are a responsible member of the inner bar,” she said.
Fayose’s lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN) said he would have applied for a bench warrant for Obanikoro’s arrest, but urged the judge to send a clear warning to the witness.
Justice Olatoregun said she would not hesitate to order Obanikoro’s arrest should he fail to appear at the next adjourned date.
“If he fails to appear, he’ll be sent to jail and they’ll be bringing him from there with Black Maria,” the judge said.
In a short ruling, the judge said he would give Obanikoro the benefit of the doubt.
She added that she hoped he would be in court next time, failing which she would have “no choice” than to order his arrest.
Fayose is on trial for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million allegedly stolen from ONSA contrary to the Money Laundering Act.
He had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge last October 22. Fayose pleaded not guilty.
Justice Olatoregun, however, adjourned the case until February 18 for continuation.