Thursday, March 16, 2017 3:54 pm
By Akin Kuponiyi
Femi Fani -Kayode, former Campaign manager to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Former Minister of Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, today succeeded in making the presiding judge Muslim Sule Hassan withdraw from trying them.
Though, the trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, dismissed the application filed by Fani-Kayode, calling for his withdrawal from the trial on the allegation that the judge will be biased.
Senator Usman, Fani-Kayode and a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Yusuf Danjuma and a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, were arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6 billion.
Fani-Kayode, had challenged the court’s jurisdiction on the ground that the trial judge who was formerly a Senior Counsel in the employment of EFCC, once prepared a charge marked FHC/L/523c/2008, on which he was tried before Justice Ngosi Ofili-Ajumogobia, but was acquitted and discharged in 2015.
Fani-kayode also contended that the offences in which he was charged were allegedly committed in Abuja, and that both his residence and businesses, and some of the witnesses he intend to call are in Abuja. Moreover, since other defendants in the case have filed an application for their case to be heard at Abuja.
However, Justice Hassan Sule, in his ruling stated that Fani-Kayode failed to establish the allegation that he would be biased in trying him.
He said though, he prepared the charge that Fani-Kayode was tried with in 2008, but he never participated in the prosecution of the charge, the former minister was prosecuted by Mr. Festus Keyamo.
Justice Sule said: “It is not in dispute that I signed the charge, as the head of legal, but I never prosecuted or participated in the prosecution of the charge”
“The defendant/applicant has not shown proof of bias or likelihood of being biased in the case”.
He, however said he would exercise caution, by transfering the case file to the Chief Judge of the Court, for reassignment to another judge.
“The law is trite, in the like of all that I have said above, I am satisfied that the best is to refer the case file to Chief Judge for reassignment to another judge”.
Both the prosecution and Defendants’ counsel commended the judge for the ruling.
At the last trial of the case, counsels representing the defendants who include, Mr. Norrisson Quakers, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko, and Mr S.I Ameh all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), had all declined to cross- examine the EFCC prosecution witness Mr. Idowu Olusegun, a media consultant.
They had jointly urged the court to adjourn the suit to a date when all pending applications on jurisdiction will be heard and determined by the court, adding that it will serve the interest of justice to so do.
In counts one to seven of the Criminal charge 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 while 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 the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused persons 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.