BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arraigned former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman before a Federal High Court in Lagos for an alleged fraud of N4.9bn.
The two ministers and one Danjuma Yusuf and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited were re-arraigned before Justice Justice Rilwan Aikawa following the withdrawal of the former trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan from the case.
Justice Hassan withdrew from the case after Fani-Kayode objected to being tried before him, on allegation of bias.
The 17 count charge brought against them by the anti-graft agency border on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
The EFCC alleged that the accused persons on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4.6 billion, which they knew was a proceeds from an unlawful act.
While Usman, former Minister of Finance, under president Goodluck Jonathan administration, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited retained the sum of N1.5 billion, Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke, said to be at large, were accused of retained the total sum of N1,650,650 billion.
The accused persons were also alleged to have made payment of several amounts running to billions of Naira without going through Financial institutions.
The offence which was allegedly committed between January 2015 and March 2015 is contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge.
During yesterday’s proceedings, the defence team lead by Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) informed the court that they had an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
The lawyer also told the court that the application was pending before the former trial judge before he ‘recluse’ himself.
He therefore urged the court to first hear their applications before the pleas of their clients are taken as it will affect the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial.
Responding, EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court not to entertain the applications because the former trial judge had ruled on it, and that it was on that premises that the matter was transferred.