Attempt by Mr. Femi Fani-kayode, former Spokesman to President Goodluck Jonathan’s Campaign Organization, former Minister for Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, and one Danjuma Yussuf, to have their trial over alleged N4.6 billion fraud, transferred out of Lagos Division of Federal High Court, on Monday, hit a brick-wall, as the new judge deferred ruling on the application till June 7 and 9, 2017.
The three defendants and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, are being rearranged on the alleged fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of an amended 17 counts charge.
It would be recalled that the former trial judge, Justice Sule Hassan, as at last hearing of the matter ‘recuse’ himself, following allegation of bias raised against him by Fani-Kayode.
Fani-kayode had stated that there is likelihood that the judge may be bias, because he was a prosecutor in the Chambers of the EFCC, who drafted his charge when he was first arraigned before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on alleged money laundering between 2014 and 2015.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, Mr. Wale Balogun, and Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), who represented Mr. Fani-kayode, Usman and Danjuma, informed the court that they have application challenging Court’s Jurisdiction.
The defence lawyers told the court that the application was pending before trial judge ‘recuse’ himself. They therefore urged the court to first hear their applications before the pleas of their clients are taken.
Responding, EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to discountenance the defence applications.
Oyedepo informed the court the former trial judge had ruled on all applications, and that it was on such premises that the matter was transferred to another judge.
The prosecutor therefore urged the court to take the defendants’ plea before hearing any grievances the defence may have.
However, the judge, Justice Aikawa while ruling on the submissions of both parties, ordered that the pleas of the defendants be taken, adding that the court will deliver ruling on the adjourned date on the submissions to issue of jurisdiction.
Upon reading of the 17 counts charge to the three defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
The defendants’ lawyers pleaded with the court to allow their clients continue with the bail terms earlier granted them by the former trial judge on July 4, 2016.
The application was not opposed by the prosecution.
The matter has been adjourned till June 7 and 9, 2017, for commencement of trial and ruling on the application seeking for the transfer of the criminal trial outside Lagos jurisdiction.
The three accused persons, and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, were today arraigned before the court on a 17 count-charge bordering on Fraud, Stealing and corruption.
In the charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that the accused person, Usman, a former Minister of Finance, under president Goodluck Jonathan Administration, Mr. Femi Fani-kayode, who is also the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization, Danjuma Yusuf and the limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, had on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4. 6 billion, which was they knew to have be proceeds from an unlawful act.
While the former State Minister for Finance, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited retained the sum of N1.5 billion, Femi Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke, said to be at large, were alleged to have retained the total sum of N1,650,650 billion.
The accused persons were also alleged to have made payment of several amounts running to billions on Naira without going through Financial institutions.
The offences according to the anti-graft agency are contrary to sections 1(a), Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a), 16(d) 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3), 16(2)(b) and 4 of the same Act.
Count one of the charge reads; That you, Nnenadi Esther Usman, Femu Fani-kayode, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00 (One Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.”
While count 17 reads; “that you Femi Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke (still at large) on or about the 12th day of February,2015 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court without going through a financial institution made cash payment in the sum of N6,000,000. 000 (Six Million Naira) to Paste Poster Co (PPC) of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island, Lagos which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.