A FEDERAL High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday slammed an N200, 000 fine on a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, following his absence to take his plea on an alleged N4.6 billion fraud charge.
Justice Daniel Osiagor, who made the order, also threatened to revoke the bail being enjoyed by Fani-Kayode.
The bail was granted in 2016 by Justice Sule Muslim Hassan, who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Fani-Kayode; a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman; one Danjuma Yusuf, a former chairman of ALGON; and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd were jointly arraigned before the judge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Midway through their trial, the defendants’ case file was transferred to Justice Rilwan Aikawa on the ground that Justice Hassan was formerly an EFCC legal officer.
The defendant pleas were retaken before Justice Aikawa.
Also midway through this second trial, Justice Aikawa was transferred to another jurisdiction of the court; hence the case file was transferred to the new Judge, Justice Osiagor, for the matter to commence afresh.
At the resumed hearing of the matter Wednesday, prosecution counsel Mrs. Bilikisu Buhari informed the court that second defendant Fani-Kayode was not in court to take his plea.
The prosecutor prayed the court to revoke Fani-Kayode’s bail.
But Fani-Kayode’s counsel, F. B. Ajudua, prayed the court to decline the application, saying the defendant had sent in a letter explaining his absence.
Fani-Kayode, he explained, is on ‘bed rest’, at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.
According to Ajudua, Fani-Kayode had been readily attending his trial since the matter commenced in 2016, and this was his first absence.
He apologised for the defendant’s absence, and prayed the court not to revoke his bail.
Ajudua then applied for a short adjournment.
But when Justice Osiagor perused the court’s records, he discovered that, contrary to the lawyer’s claim, Fani-Kayode had been absent from court five times already.
He noted the five- time of absence stalled the smooth hearing of the charge.
Justice Osiagor then gave the lawyer two options of either to revoke Fani-Kayode’s bail or the defendant would pay a fine of N200, 000.
Ajudua opted for the latter, following which the judge ordered that the fine must be paid before the next adjourned date.
He adjourned till November 30, for the defendants’ arraignment.
The EFCC in a charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that Usman – a former Minister of Finance under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration – Fani-Kayode, who also served the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd, on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the sum of N4.6 billion, which they knew to be proceeds of an unlawful act.
While the former State Minister for Finance, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions allegedly retained N1.5 billion, Fani-Kayode and Olubode Oke – said to be at large – were alleged to have retained N1,650,650 billion.
The defendants were also alleged to have made payments of several amounts running to billions on naira without going through financial institutions.
The offences according to the anti-graft agency contravened sections 1(a), 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, Femi Fani-Kayode, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria LTd, on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1.5Billion, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.
Cunt 17 reads: “That you Femi Fani-Kayode and Olubode Oke (still at large) on or about the 12th day of February,2015 in Lagos, without going through a financial institution made cash payment in the sum of N6million to Paste Poster Co (PPC) of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island, Lagos which sum exceeded the amount authorised 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.”
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