Thursday, April 17, 2014

Judge’s absence stalls trial of Fani-Kayode for money laundering

Published:

Femi Fani-Kayode

The judge will be the third to handle Mr. Fani-Kayode’s trial

A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Thursday fixed February 11, 2013 for the commencement of trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode.

The accused is faced with a 47-count charge of money laundering, contrary to the money laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.

The trial, which was slated to begin on Thursday before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, could not go on due to the absence of the trial judge.

The absence of the judge was reportedly due to the on-going judges conference which some judges of the Federal High Court are attending.

Ms. Ofili-Ajumogobia is the new trial judge assigned to replace Binta Murtala-Nyako, who was transferred from the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

She becomes the third trial judge to handle the matter.

Mr. Fani-Kayode had been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on February 16, before Mrs. Murtala-Nyako. His re-arraignment before Mrs. Murtala-Nyako followed the transfer of Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was the first trial judge to handle the matter.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and had been admitted to bail.

At the last hearing of the matter before Mrs. Murtala-Nyako on April 24, Chris Uche, counsel to the accused, prayed the court to stay further proceedings in the matter.

He urged the court to stay proceedings pending the determination of an appeal filed at the Supreme Court.

Uche had tendered a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Motion on Notice for hearing of the matter at the apex court, as evidence that an appeal had been filed.

He had, therefore, urged the court to adjourn the matter, pending the determination of the appeal.

The request for stay of proceedings was, however, opposed by counsel to the EFCC, Nelson Okedinachi, on the ground that the defence was only seeking for an avenue to stall proceedings.

He said that the appeal was merely an academic exercise since the matter was commencing afresh before Murtala-Nyako and the plea of the accused had been taken afresh.

Okedinachi had argued that the stay of proceedings sought by the defence was not covered by the EFCC Act, and urged the court to fix a date for the trial.

In her ruling, the judge had declined to grant the stay of proceedings on the ground that the appeal had nothing to do with the matter before her.

NAN

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