Justice Daniel Osiagor of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday has imposed a fine of N200,000:00 on a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, for his absence, to take his fresh plea on an alleged N4.6 billion fraud, Njenje Media News reports.
Fani-kayode is being prosecuted before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, and a former chairman of the Association of Local Governments Of Nigeria, Danjuma Yusuf, as well as a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
Their trial had initially commenced in 2016, before Justice Muslim Hassan, who has now been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
But midway in their trial, the defendants’ case file was transferred to Justice Rilwan Aikawa, on the ground that Justice Hassan, was formerly a legal officer with the EFCC, as the defendants’ had alleged that the judge could be biased in the case.
Another plea was then taken before the second judge, Justice Aikawa. But, the case file was again transferred to a third judge, Justice Osiagor, for the matter to start afresh, as Justice Aikawa was transfered to the Akure division of the court.
At the resumed hearing of the matter in Wednesday, the prosecutor, Bilikisu Buhari, applied for the bail initially granted Femi Fani-kayode to be revoked, as he was not in court to take his plea before Justice Osiagor.
But, Mr Fani-kayode’s counsel, F. B. Ajudua, pleaded with the court not to revoke his bail, saying that a letter has been written on behalf of his client, the he is currently on ‘bed rest’, at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.
He also told the court that his client has been readily attending his trial since the matter commenced in 2016, and that today is the only day that he was not in court.
The trial judge, upon perusing the Court’s records, discovered that the defendant in question had been absent from previous sittings for five times, and noted that this stalled the smooth hearing of the charge.
Justice Osiagor, gave the defense counsel two options of either to revoke the bail or opt for a fine of N200, 000:00.
Upon choosing the latter, the judge ordered that the fine must be paid before the next sitting, and adjourned till November 30, for all the defendants’ rearraignment.
The EFCC in the charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that Mrs Usman, a former Minister of Finance, under president Goodluck Jonathan Administration, Femi Fani-kayode, who was the chief media adviser in the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organization, as well as Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions, had on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4. 6 billion, which they knew to have been proceeds from an unlawful act.
While the former State Minister for Finance, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited retained the sum of N1.5 billion, Femi Fani-kayode and one Olubode Oke, said to be at large, were alleged to have 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 on Naira without going through Financial institutions.