Hearing in a criminal suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, over alleged money laundering was stalled today due to change of counsel representing the former Minister.
Consequently, the court gave 24 hours to a new counsel, Norrison Quakers (SAN) to study the case file.
Fani-kayode, who was also former Director of Media and Publicity, campaign committee of ex President Goodluck Jonathan, is charged alongside a former Minister of Finance, Nenandi Usman, and Danjuma Yusuf.
They are charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 17 counts bordering on the offence and had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Mr. Nkereuwem Anana, announced appearance for the prosecution.
On the other hand, Quakers announced appearance for Fani-Kayode, adding that he had just been briefed in the matter.
He told the court that he was the new counsel in the suit having been briefed yesterday, adding that he required time to study the case file and get abreast with the issues.
Quakers also sought leave to meet with the judge in chambers to confer on some issues.
He said it will be tidier to see the judge in chambers, adding that the prosecution and other counsels could join in the meeting since there were no secrets to hide.
In response, the prosecutor, objected to the request for adjournment on the grounds that it was a mere ploy to delay trial.
Anana informed the court that the business of the day was for continuation of trial and that his witnesses were already in court.
He said: “This is a technical way of asking for an adjournment; I have seniors in this matter, and so I don’t think I am the proper person to come for any meeting in the chambers.
“I said earlier that we are ready to go on, and I did not ask for any adjournment, so if there is a call for any meeting, I will not be a part of that meeting.”
He urged the court to proceed with trial.
But, Counsel to the second accused, Mr. Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), lending his voice to the prayer of Quakers, urged the court to allow the new counsel ample time to study the case file.
According to him, it is in line with the principle of fairness as enshrined in the constitution especially in relation to criminal matters, to grant the prayers of Quakers, since he was just briefed yesterday.
Orbih noted that the entire provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act taken as a whole, cannot supersede constitutional provisions on fair hearing.
He reminded the court that the suit was a criminal one, and that the goal of the court must be to attain justice in every respect.
He, therefore, urged the court to give the application a favourable consideration.
Besides, Orbih also drew the court’s attention to two of his application seeking a release of the second accused’s international passport, as well as seeking for a more convenient venue for trial.
These pending applications were noted by the court.
In a short ruling, Justice Muslim Hassan, said he would grant an adjournment till Jan. 17 (tomorrow) to enable the new counsel study the case file, before proceeding with trial.
He said that the matter was earlier fixed for three days; Jan. 16, 17 and 19, but that today’s date will be vacated to enable the new counsel get acquainted with the facts.
On the request to see the judge in chambers, Hassan held “On the request to meet the court in chambers, with respect to learned counsel, I cannot grant same.”
The judge urged counsel to make a formal application and put forward his thoughts in writing.
He adjourned the case to Jan. 17 for hearing.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the accused were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile in counts 15 to17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
All offences were said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.