Posted By: Odunayo Ogunmola
•Commission: counsel bungled his client’s case
A lawyer, Adeoye Aribasoye, has called for the dismantling of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry investigating finances of Ekiti State government between October 2010 and October 2014.
Aribasoye is representing CASA Nigeria Limited, the contractor that built the Ado-Ekiti Civic Centre during the tenure of former Governor Kayode Fayemi.
The lawyer said the panel could no longer be trusted on fairness, hence the need for its members to withdraw.
According to him, the seven-member panel, led by a former Acting Chief Judge, Justice Silas Oyewole (retd), was “biased and grossly partisan and working towards a predetermined conclusion”.
The lawyer alleged that the panel, at its sitting on October 6, prepared a ruling before hearing the matter of the day, when it allegedly shut out his client and delivered a bench ruling.
But the panel denied Aribasoye’s allegation, insisting that the lawyer should be blamed for allegedly bungling his client’s case.
It accused Aribasoye of failing to file the application to reopen his client’s case on time, despite the opportunity allegedly given to him.
An examination of the commission’s time table showed that CASA Nigeria Limited was supposed to make “conditional appearance” before the panel on September 5, as a witness.
CASA’s Project Manager Mr. Apata Ayodele, according to an affidavit sworn to on September 5, appealed for an extension of time for him to appear because the information about the time table was received late.
Addressing reporters yesterday in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, Aribasoye accused the panel of preventing his client from giving evidence, as contained in its preliminary objection, which touches on integrity of the panel to be fair.
He said: “When I appeared before the panel on September 5, I told them that my client would not be available on September 6. They asked me to formally apply for an extension of time with which I would reopen the case. They said I should file all applications regarding this on or before September 11, and I did.
“But to my surprise, on October 6, the matter came up for argument, and the panel gave a bench ruling on an issue that was argued for about 30 minutes.
“They didn’t even rise for a second to prepare the ruling. This suggested that they had already written the ruling before the appearance.
“This confirmed our fear that this panel had a predetermined mission. It was set up for a sinister motive and the members must disqualify themselves, in line with the law.”
Aribasoye tendered a letter, dated September 11 and addressed to the commission’s chairman to buttress his point that he applied for an extension of time.
The lawyer cited the cases of Kenom Vs Tekan, 2001, 14 Nigeria Weekly Law Report (NWLR), Part 732, page 12 at 41 and FG Vs MKO Abiola, to substantiate his claim that the panel can no longer proceed on moral grounds.
He said: “The Supreme Court’s members in the case of Abiola disqualified themselves, based on allegation raised by G. O. K. Ajayi (SAN) that the justices could not exhibit fairness. I want the panel to toe the same line.”
But a ruling delivered by Justice Oyewole dismissed the application for CASA’s conditional appearance on the strength that the application was filed out of time.