The Federal High Court in Lagos has rejected an application by former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, for the transfer of his corruption case to Abuja.
The former minister is being tried for alleged fraud involving N4.9 billion.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Rilwan Aikawa dismissed Mr. Fani-Kayode’s application for lacking in merit.
Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Norrison Quakers, had based the application on the grounds that the cause of action leading to the case took place in Abuja.
But the judge observed that parts of the alleged illegal transactions by the defendant took place in Lagos.
Justice Aikawa noted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had alleged that Mr. Fani-Kayode paid N30 million from the said sum to a printer, Olusegun Idowu, whose office is at Igbosere on Lagos Island.
The judge also noted that based on Mr. Fani-Kayode’s request, the immediate-past Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, had earlier transferred the case to him from Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court in Lagos.
He said if the Chief Judge had found merit in the request to transfer the case to Abuja, he would have done so after Justice Hassan withdrew from the case.
“I am of the view that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, there is no justification for the transfer of this case to Abuja. The application lacks merit and is hereby dismissed,” Mr. Aikawa ruled.
Mr. Quakers had argued that the facts of the case showed that all the transactions his client carried out as the Director of Media and Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation for which he was charged, took place in Abuja.
Besides, he said, Mr. Fani-Kayode was based in Abuja and is facing another trial there for alleged fraud, urging the court to transfer the case to Abuja for convenience.
But the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application, stating that some exhibits of the alleged illegal transactions, including cheques and receipts, were recovered in Lagos.
“The financial institutions used in the transactions have their head offices in Lagos,” Mr. Oyedepo had further stated.
He also pointed out that 13 of the prosecution’s 17 witnesses live in Lagos, adding that Mr. Fani-Kayode’s application was a ploy to frustrate the case.
Mr. Oyedepo informed the court that the defendant had earlier raised the same issue before Justice Hassan, to whom the case was first assigned.
He said after Justice Hassan withdrew from the case based on Mr. Fan-Kayode’s claim that he would not get justice before the judge, the then Chief Judge, Justice Auta, did not transfer the case to Abuja but re-assigned it to Justice Aikawa of the same court in Lagos.
“The consequence of the alleged offence of money laundering is not limited to Abuja, but to the entire federation,” Mr. Oyedepo had said.
Justice Aikawa, in his ruling on Tuesday, upheld the arguments of the EFCC lawyer.
In another ruling, the judge also admitted in evidence the receipts issued to the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation by the printer, Mr. Idowu, for a cash transaction of N30 million.
The judge then adjourned the case to Wednesday for continuation of trial.
Mr. Fani-Kayode is standing trial alongside former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, who is listed as the first defendant in the charge.
The other defendants are one Danjuma Yusuf and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited.
The 17 counts preferred against them border on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Publicity of former President Jonathan’s re-election campaign organisation, was accused by the EFCC of receiving funds they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of crime.
The EFCC said they committed the offence between January 8 and March 25, 2015 ahead of the 2015 general elections.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and have denied any wrongdoing.
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