Fani-Kayode asks judge to excuse self

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A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode has challenged the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court to trial him for the alleged offence of money laundering.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Fani-Kayode and a former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion.

They were charged along with Yusuf Danjuma, a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Danjuma.

Also charged is a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd, which is said to belong to Danjuma.

Fani-Kayode in his application filed by his lawyer, Norrison Quakers (SAN), urged the trial judge, Justice M S Hassan to excuse himself from the case because the judge was once a prosecutor with the EFCC.

Quakers recalled that Justice Hassan was the one who drafted, filed and signed a charge marked FHC/L/523c/2008 over which Fani-Kayode was prosecuted by the EFCC before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

“The fact that His Lordship, M.S. Hassan, presiding over this case had previously superintended a criminal charge against the second defendant (Fani-Kayode) as an officer/ senior counsel for the EFCC creates likelihood of bias,” Quakers said, adding that it was best for the application to first decide before the case could go on.

But the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application and urged the court to allow the trial to proceed.

In a short ruling, Justice Hassan said trial would continue while all pending applications would be taken later.

The EFCC consequently called its witness, Olusegun, who tendered two invoices he issued for the printing of N30m worth of posters for the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential campaign for the 2015 general election.

He equally tendered the two receipts for the cash payments of N6m and N24m for the job.

The defence lawyers, however, declined cross-examining the witness, saying it would overreach their pending applications.

Meanwhile, former Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Nemandi Usman, has pleaded with the court to allow her to be tried separately from a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.

The former Minister, through her lawyer, Jelili Owonikoko (SAN), pointed Justice Hassan’s attention to two pending applications filed by his client.

One of the applications, Owonikoko said, was praying the court to allow Usman to be tried separately from Fani-Kayode, and for her trial to be transferred from Lagos to Abuja for convenience.

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Owonikoko said his client was apprehensive that she might not get justice if she was jointly tried with Fani-Kayode.

“We are concerned about the joint trial of the first defendant (Usman) with the second defendant (Fani-Kayode),” he said.

He said it was inconvenient for his client who lives in Abuja to be travelling to Lagos stand trial.

He said it became even more difficult for her because all her bank accounts had been frozen, yet for each court appearance, she would have fly to Lagos a day before, lodge in a hotel and return to Abuja the day after the court trial.

He told the court that Usman, in the second application, was praying for the release of her passport to enable her travel abroad for medical treatment.

“We have another application, which I believe is not opposed understandably and commendably which borders on the first defendant’s pressing need for medical attention overseas

“In fact, My Lord, everything else depends on us being alive. That, to me, with respect, is even more pressing,” Owonikoko said, urging the judge to dispose of the applications first before proceeding with the trial.

The matter has been adjourned till today for continuation of trial

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