The Federal High Court in Lagos, on Wednesday, ordered a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, to pay N200,000 for not making himself available for re-arraignment for alleged money laundering.
The judge, Daniel Osaigor, said he had gone through the court’s file and noted five different letters by Fani-Kayode seeking adjournment on same medical grounds.
He ordered that he should pay the N200,000 fine or risk revocation of his bail.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Mr Fani-Kayode alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman.
Also charged is Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, and a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nig. Ltd.
The EFCC preferred a 17-count charge of N4.6 billion money laundering against them before a judge, Mohammed Aikawa, who was previously handling the matter.
The alleged fraudulent transactions took place January to March 2015, the period which formed part of Mr Fani-Kayode’s time as the spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential campaigns for the reelection of then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Mr Jonathan lost the 2015 election to then candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Fani-Kayode, who recently defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the other defendants had all pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges when the case was before Mr Aikawa as the trial judge.
The judge also granted them bail.
Trial had begun before Mr Aikawa and witnesses being led in evidence before the judge was transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction of the court.
The case was then assigned to Mr Osaigor and the defendants scheduled for re-arraignment on Wednesday.
‘Fani-Kayode’s numerous medial excuses’
When the case was called on Wednesday, Bilikisu Buhari, announced an appearance for prosecution, and I.J. Ogechukwu for the first defendant (Usman), Mr B.F. Ajudua for the second defendant (Mr Fani-Kayode) and Y. Olabode for the third and fourth defendants.
The prosecuting counsel, Mrs Buhari, then informed the court that on July 15, prosecution asked the court to adjourn the matter for re-arraignment of the defendants.
She told the court that on October 11, prosecution received a letter from the second defendant informing them that he had been given bed rest.
Mrs Buhari told the court that letters by the second defendant had become numerous, saying that he wrote them to avoid attending court sittings.
“Whenever he doesn’t want to attend court, this is the type of letter we get,” she said.
However, Mr Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Mr Ajudua, told the court that although his client’s illness was recurring, he had attended court regularly.
He urged the court to grant an adjournment in favour of his client.
At this point, the judge decided to go through the court’s file and discovered that Fani-Kayode sought a similar medical excuse five times.
The judge asked his counsel to take one of two options: revocation of Mr Fani-Kayode’s bail or the imposition of a N200,000 fine to be paid before the next adjourned date.
The counsel chose the fine option.
“From my records, the second defendant had written to the court five times, excusing his trial on medical grounds,” the judge said.
He mentioned the dates the letters were written as February 1, 2018, May 30, 2019, November 24, 2020, March 21, 2021 and October 9, 2021.
“The second defendant is to pay a cost of N200,000 before the next adjourned date, as the recurring medical excuse has been a pattern that slows this trial,” he said.
He adjourned the case till November 30 for re-arraignment of the defendants.
The EFCC has alleged that the defendants committed the offences from January to March 2015.
In counts one to seven, the EFCC alleged that they unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the defendants were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of corruption.
In counts 15 to 17, the EFCC said Mr Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, said to be at large, made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the maximum amount allowed by law.
Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No. 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of the maximum amount allowed by law.
The alleged offences contravene Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
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