Lagos Court Slams N.2m Fine On Fani-Kayode

  • For shunning court sessions with numerous excuse letters

For always giving numerous excuses and making himself unavailable for re-arraignment over alleged money laundering charges, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has N200,000 fine to pay

Justice Daniel Osaigor of a Federal High Court in Lagos, slammed the fine on Wednesday, saying that having gone through the Court’s file, five different letters by Fani-Kayode were cited seeking adjournment on the same medical grounds.

Consequently, the Court ordered the absentee former Minister and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain to pay the fine or risk revocation of his bail.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred a 17-count charge of N4.6 billion money laundering against Fani-Kayode, alongside a former Minister of State of Finance, Nenandi Usman.

Also charged with them before Justice Mohammed Aikawa were Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, and a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.

However, the defendants had all pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by the court.

The trial had begun before Justice Aikawa and witnesses led in evidence before the judge was transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction of the Court.

Accordingly, the case was re-assigned to Justice Osaigor, and the defendants scheduled for re-arraignment on Wednesday. When the case was called on Wednesday, Mrs Bilikisu Buhari, announced an appearance for prosecution.

Mr I. J. Ogechukwu appeared for the first defendant (Usman), Mr B. F. Ajudua appeared for the second defendant (Fani-Kayode) and Y. Olabode appeared for the third and fourth defendants.

Buhari then reminded the trial judge that on July 15, 2021, the prosecution asked the Court to adjourn the matter for re-arraignment of the defendants.

She told the court that on October 11, 2021, the prosecution received a letter from the second defendant informing them that he had been given bed rest, noting that letters by the second defendant had become numerous.

Maintaining that the former Minister always wrote the letters to avoid attending court sittings, the Prosecution Counsel said; “Whenever he doesn’t want to attend the court session, this is the type of letter we get,” she said.

However, Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Ajudua, told the court that although his client’s illness was recurring, he had been attending the Court regularly and therefore urged the Judge to grant an adjournment in favour of his client.

At this point, Justice Osaigor decided to go through the Court’s file and discovered that Fani-Kayode sought a similar medical excuse five times. He then asked his counsel to take one of two options: revocation of Fani-Kayode’s bail or the imposition of a N200,000 fine to be paid before the next adjourned date. His counsel chose the fine option.

Justice Osaigor, in a short ruling, said; “From my records, the second defendant had written to the court five times, excusing his trial on medical grounds.”

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 and adjourned the case until November 30 for re-arraignment of the defendants.

The anti-graft agency had 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 that Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, who is 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. – NAN

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