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N4.6Billion Money Laundering Trial: Fanikayode Seeks Judge's Recues

At the resumed trial of the Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode today there was a mild controversy as the former Aviation minister  raised objection against his trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court over alleged money  laundering of N4.6 billion, contending that the appropriate division of the court for his trial should be Abuja.
        In addition, Fanikayode want the presiding Judge Muslim Hassan to recues himself from the case as he was the one who as EFCC legal officer who signed a criminal charge filed against him in 2008.
        In a two separate applications the other accused persons while urging the  court to transfer the case to Abuja for trial, are also asking for separate trial.
        The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) had on June 28, 2016 arraigned  Fani-Kayode and three others on a 17-count charge of money laundering.
      Apart from Fani-Kayode, other accused persons docked by the anti-graft agency are; former Minister of State for Finance, Mrs Esther Nenadi Usman, one, Danjuma Yusuf and a limited liability company, John Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited.
        However, In an application he filed through his lawyer, Norrison Quakers (SAN) before the  court  today Fani-Kayode is questioning the rationale behind his trial in Lagos when the transactions leading to the alleged offences occurred in Abuja while he was the Director of Media and Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organization.
        He added that all his proposed witnesses, majority of the prosecution witnesses and branches of financial institutions involved in the matter not only reside in Abuja but also conducts their businesses there.
        He stressed that his account and that of his wife have been frozen by the EFCC prior to the charge filed against him which has made it increasingly difficult for him to finance his transportation,welfare,hotel accommodation and other logistics while in Lagos for his trial in this court.
        Fani-Kayode is also challenging the morality of Justice Hassan to continue to preside over the matter having worked with the EFCC as a senior legal officer and a prosecuting counsel who  drafted, prepared, settled, executed and subsequently filed towards his prosecution in 2008 before he was discharged on 1st of July, 2015.
        Consequently he is asking that the justice Hassan should recuse himself from the case while the matter should be transferred to the Abuja Division of the  court. Other defendants in the matter were also seeking the transfer of the case to Abuja.
        In a separate applications, they were equally seeking for the severance of their trial from that of the second accused person (Fani-Kayode),thereby seeking for a separate trial.
        During today's proceedings counsels Morrison Quakers SAN, and Abiodun Owonikoko SAN leading nine other lawyers for defense of the accused persons refused to cross-examine the first prosecution witness, Idowu Olusegun, a media consultant.
        Justice Hassan had directed Nenadi's lawyer, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) to carry out the cross-examination of the witness following the conclusion of the examination-in-chief by EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo.
        However, Mr Owonikoko while turning down the invitation said he was handicapped by his client's application pending before the court.
        Citing Section 295(2) of the Constitution, Owonikoko said going ahead with the cross-examination of the witness, would mean he had abandoned his application.
        He said: "Your Lordship having graciously acknowledged that application, it will amount to an anticipatory refusal thereof for the first defendant to continue with a joint trial with the second defendant and proceed to cross-examine the witness.
        "Continuing with the trial will also amount to a refusal of the second leg of the application which is challenging the choice of Lagos as trial venue.
        "The concern is about the joint trial of the first defendant with the second defendant by the prosecution and also with the choice of Lagos as venue for trial in a matter that happened at Abuja and Kaduna"
        He also urged the court to invoke the provisions of Section 295(2) of the Constitution by referring the matter to the Court of Appeal for the determination of the appropriateness or otherwise of continuing with trial in the face of pending applications.
        Other defence lawyers equally aligned themselves with Owonikoko's submissions.
        However, in his response, EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, faulted the defence lawyers' refusal to cross-examine the witness.
        According to him, "In view of the provisions of Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act(ACJA), the applications which are akin to an objection can be taken by the court along with the substantive suit and ruling deffered. The section gave the court the discretion as to when the applications are to be heard".
        He further noted that the defendants should no longer be concerned about the issue of jurisdiction because they have already submitted themselves to the court's jurisdiction by taken their respective plea with regard to the charge.
        Justice Hassan has adjourned till tomorrow to determine either the trial should continue or not.

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