Fani-Kayode’s trial was stalled on Monday owing to the absence in court of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecutor, Mr. Festus Keyamo.
The trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, had adjourned till Monday for the ex-minister to open argument in his own defence against the charges of financial impropriety levelled against him.
Though the accused was in court and had proceeded into the dock upon calling the case, a counsel representing the EFCC, Mr. Somadina Okore, however stood up and pointed the attention of the court to a letter written by Keyamo asking the court for an adjournment.
Okore said, “Most respectfully, my Lord, earlier before now, the prosecutor in this matter, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has written a letter to this honourable court, informing the court that he is appearing before a Federal High Court in Yola today. He is praying this honourable court to vacate today’s date to allow him to appear and prosecute this case in person.”
Responding, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN), said he was aware of the letter and that he had no objection to the request for an adjournment. He also reminded the court that the matter was adjourned till Monday and Tuesday, adding that if it was convenient for the court, his client would go and return on Tuesday to stand trial.
In the circumstance, Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned till Tuesday and Wednesday for continuation of trial.
Fani-Kayode was arraigned before Ofili-Ajumogobia on 40 counts bordering on money laundering to the tune of about N100m.
The EFCC alleged that while he held sway as the Aviation Minister and the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Fani-Kayode, at various times carried out several financial transactions and dealt in cash in excess of N500,000 without going through any financial institution.
The anti-graft agency said the alleged offence contravened Sections 15(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and 15 (2) (a) (b) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.
But Fani-Kayode, who is now spearheads President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign, had pleaded not guilty to the charges, following which the prosecution was asked to open its case and adduce evidence in support of the allegations.
However, at the closure of the prosecution’s case on July 10, 2014, the accused on August 5, 2014 submitted a no-case application, arguing that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against him and thus prayed the court to dismiss the charges and set him free.
Ruling on the no-case application on November 17, 2014, Ofili-Ajumogobia dismissed 38 of the 40 counts and discharged Fani-Kayode on the charges.
The judge, however, said the accused would need to prove his innocence in respect of counts 25 and 26 of the charges.
The counts read, “That you, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on or before September 20, 2006, while serving as Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, made a transaction exceeding N500,000 which was not done through financial institution, by accepting cash payment of N1m, which sum was further paid into your personal account number, 103450252601 with First Inland Bank PLc Apapa branch, now FCMB, through one Supo Agbaje, your administrative staff, now at large.
“That you, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on or before September 20, 2006, while serving as Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, made a transaction exceeding N500,000, which was not done through financial institution, by accepting cash payment of N1.1m, which sum was further paid into your personal account number, 103450252601 with First Inland Bank PLc Apapa branch, now FCMB, through one Supo Agbaje, your administrative staff, now at large.”
Fani-Kayode’s trial began in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed, from whom he secured bail in the sum of N200m with two sureties in like sum.
The case file was subsequently passed on to Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, following the transfer of Mohammed from the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
Ofili-Ajumogobia took over the case from Murtala-Nyako on February 11, 2013.