Thursday, February 9, 2017 12:04 am
A Federal High Court in Lagos will on March 1 hear an application challenging its jurisdiction in the trial of a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, charged with laundering N4.6 billion.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Fani-Kayode alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Sen. Nenadi Usman and a former National Chairman, the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) Yusuf Danjuma and a company — Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd.
The accused, who were arraigned on a 17-count charge, pleaded not guilty.
Fani-Kayode, in his pending application, is asking Justice Muslim Hassan to disqualify himself because he was “worried and terrified” that he would not get a fair trial.
He is asking the judge to decline jurisdiction and transfer the case to Abuja Division of Federal High courts.
He said that Justice Hassan, who worked as a prosecutor at the Federal Ministry of Justice and later seconded to the EFCC, signed the charges against him when he was previously tried for money laundering.
Meanwhile, Usman, in her application, is asking the court to allow her to be tried separately from Fani-Kayode and for her trial to be transferred from Lagos to Abuja for convenience.
When the case came up on Wednesday, Counsel to Usman, Mr Abiodun Owonikowo (SAN) urged the court to consider the former minister’s application to travel for medical reasons.
“If she collapses, will this case go on? She has undergone surgery and has a relapse; doctors at the National Hospital have recommended that she needs to get urgent medical treatment abroad.
“This is a matter as serious as breast cancer, we are all humans and can fall sick,” he said.
In his response, the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said Usman’s application for leave to travel could not be heard when there were pending applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
He said the issue of jurisdiction ought to be determined first before all other applications would be heard.
“If they want this application (for leave to travel) to be heard, then they should withdraw the application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.”
In his ruling, Justice Hassan agreed with the prosecution’s submissions, saying since the accused had applications on jurisdiction with regards to where they should be tried, as well as on fair hearing, those applications ought to be determined first.
“The law is clear, the court is obliged to determine the issue of jurisdiction first and I am inclined to take the application challenging the competence of this court to entertain the case,” he said.
The judge then directed the Defence to move the pending applications while Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr Norrison Quakers (SAN), informed the court that EFCC had served him with counter-affidavit three days ago and that he required time to reply on points of law.
Justice Hassan adjourned the case to March 1 for the hearing of all pending applications.