(June 29, 2016) Former Aviation Minister and spokesman for the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential campaign organisation in 2015 election, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and one time Finance Minister, Mrs Nenadi Usman were on Tuesday remanded in prison after being arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly laundering N4.6billion naira.
Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos gave the order that the accused be remanded in prison until Friday when their bail applications will be heard.
They pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge read to them.
They were charged along with a former Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State Mr. Yusuf Danjuma, and a company said to belong to him, Jointrust Dimensions Nigeria Limited.
EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo said the 17-count charge was dated June 13. He prayed that it be read to the accused.
Usman’s lawyer, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), pleaded with the judge to let the former finance minister sit while the charge was read because she was ill. The judge agreed and she sat in the dock.
Moments later, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), also asked that a chair be provided for his client.
“He indicated to me that he is not feeling too well,” Adedipe said. A chair was also brought for the former Director of Media and Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Organisation.
After the charge was read, Oyedepo said: “In view of the plea of the accused, by Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, they are deemed to have put themselves up for trial.
“Your lordship has the power under Section 19 (2) of the EFCC Act 2004 to order accelerated trial. I’ll be asking your Lordship to remand the defendants in prison pending the determination of this charge or as your lordship may deem proper in the course of this trial,” he said.
But the defence counsel said they had all filed bail applications. While EFCC was served with two of the applications on Monday, Adedipe said he served the commission with Fani-Kayode’s motion since June 16.
Adedipe said Fani-Kayode had been in detention since May 9, even after the remand order issued by a magistrate had lapsed.
“My client has been in custody for 48 days. He was invited. He went, and they kept him. We filed his bail application and served the EFCC, but I’ve not received any counter-affidavit indicating an opposition,” he said.
Oyedepo said he did not respond separately to Fani-Kayode’s application because he thought all the bail applications would be heard together and a single ruling delivered.
He added that the charge was filed the day the Magistrate’s order lapsed, saying Fani-Kayode was not detained illegally.
But Adedipe said it would unfair to adjourn hearing of his bail application because “each criminal trial is personal.”
“Taking all the applications together has no basis in law. It will amount to a cynical manipulation of the judicial process to grant this adjournment,” he said.
In a short ruling, Justice Hassan said for better case management, it would be better to hear all the bail applications together and deliver a single ruling on them.
When the defence counsel prayed that the defendants be kept in EFCC’s custody until Friday rather than in prison, Oyedepo said the commission’s detention facility “is overstretched.”
He said the practice was for every accused person to be taken to prison once they are arraigned. “We don’t want to be accused of bias,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Hassan then ruled that they be remanded in prison custody.
Count one of the charge reads: “That you, Nenadi Esther Usman, Femi Fani-Kayode, Danjuman Yusuf And Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00 which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
The four were also accused of indirectly retaining N300million, N400million and N800million, all proceeds of corruption, according to EFCC.
EFCC said they allegedly committed the offence between last January 8 and last March 25, 2015 ahead of last year’s general election.
In another count, the prosecution alleged that Fani-Kayode directly retained N350million which he ought to have “reasonably known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
The commission said Fani-Kayode directly used the sum of N170million, among other sums, which he reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of corruption and stealing.
He was also accused of doing cash transaction of N24million with Olubode Oke, said to still be at large, without going through a financial institution.
The offence, EFCC said, violates sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b).
The defendants’ bail applications will be considered on Friday.