A Lagos Federal High Court on Monday gave former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode’s new lawyer, Norrison Quakers, 24 hours to study the case file and proceed with trial.
Mr. Fani-Kayode is being tried for alleged money laundering of over N3.8 billion.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, who was also former Director of Media and Publicity, campaign committee of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, is being prosecuted alongside a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, and Danjuma Yusuf.
They are charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on 17-count bordering on alleged money laundering.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, while Nkereuwem Anana, announced appearance for the prosecution, Mr. Quakers announced appearance for Fani-Kayode.
Mr. Quakers, who told the court that because he had just been briefed by his client, pleaded for time to properly study the case file before he could proceed with the case.
He also sought leave to meet with the judge in chambers to confer on some issues but said the prosecutor could join in the meeting, adding that there was nothing secretive in the planned meeting.
Mr. Quakers, thereafter, sought for adjournment of the case.
However, Mr. Anana objected to Quakers’ request for adjournment, arguing that it was a ground design to delay trial in the case.
Mr. Anana informed the court that the business of the day was for continuation of trial, adding that his witnesses were already in court.
He said: “This is a technical way of asking for an adjournment; I have seniors in this matter and so I don’t think I am the proper person to come for any meeting in the chambers.
“I said earlier that we are ready to go on and I did not ask for any adjournment, so if there is a call for any meeting, I will not be a part of that meeting.”
He pleaded with the court to continue with the trial.
However, the Counsel to the second accused, Ferdinand Orbih, while lending voice to Mr. Quakers’, prayer, urged the court to allow the new counsel ample time to study the case file.
According to him, it is in line with the principle of fairness as enshrined in the constitution, especially in relation to criminal matters, to grant the prayers of Mr. Quakers.
He stated that Mr. Quakers had just been briefed about the case.
Mr. Orbih further said that the entire provisions of the administration of Criminal Justice Act, taken as a whole, could not supersede constitutional provisions on fair hearing.
He reminded the court that the suit was a criminal one, adding that the goal of the court must be to attain justice in every respect.
He, therefore, urged the court to give the application a favourable consideration.
Mr. Orbih also drew the court’s attention to two of his application seeking a release of the international passport of the second and for a more convenient venue for trial.
Justice Muslim Hassan, in his ruling, said that he would grant an adjournment for one day to enable the new counsel study the case file before proceeding with trial.
He recalled that the matter was earlier fixed for three days: Jan. 16, 17 and 19, but said that January16 would be vacated to enable the new counsel get acquainted with the facts of the case.
On the request to see the judge in chambers, Mr. Hassan said, “On the request to meet the court in chambers, with respect to learned counsel, I cannot grant same.”
The judge, therefore, urged counsel to make a formal application and put forward his thoughts in writing.
He adjourned the case to January 17 for hearing.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
In count one to seven, 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 count eight to 14, the accused were also alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile in count 15 to17, Mr. Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million.
The cash payments, the prosecution added, were in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Mr. Fani-Kayode was also 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 offences 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.