Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday remanded former aviation minister and spokesman of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and former finance minister, Senator Nenadi Usman, in prison custody over an alleged N4.6 billion fraud pending the hearing of their bail applications on July 1.
Justice Hassan gave the order after the two former ministers, a firm – Joint Trust Dimensions Ltd, and one Jimoh Yusuf were arraigned before him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 27-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft, corruption and money laundering.
The EFCC, in the charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that the accused persons, on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4.6 billion which they knew to be the proceeds of an unlawful act.
According to the charge, while Usman, former minister of finance under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Danjuma Yusuf and Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd retained the sum of N1.5 billion, Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke (said to be at large) were accused of retaining the total sum of N1,650,650 billion.
The accused persons were also alleged to have made payments of several amounts worth billions of Naira without going through financial institutions.
The offences, according to the anti-graft agency, are contrary to sections 1(a), Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a), 16(d) 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3), 16(2)(b) and 4 of the same Act.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
After their arraignment, the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court for accelerated hearing, and that the court should remand the accused persons in prison custody pending the determination of the charge.
The defense lawyers, Fred Orbih (SAN), Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Mr S. I. Ameh, strongly opposed the motion to remand their clients in prison, but they agreed to an accelerated hearing of the case.
Counsel to Usman, Orbih (SAN) informed the court that he had filed his client’s bail application and that it had been served on the prosecution. He urged the court to allow him to move the bail application.
In the same vein, the lawyer to Fani-Kayode, Adedipe, informed the court that he had also filed a bail application on behalf of his client and that same has been served on the prosecution.
Adedipe particularly informed the court that the bail application was filed on June 15, and same was served on June 16, adding that he had not received a counter-affidavit indicating the prosecution’s opposition to the bail application.
He, therefore, urged the court to hear his client’s bail application.
Also, lawyer to third accused person, Ameh, similarly told the court that he had filed a bail application on behalf of his client.
In response, the prosecutor, Oyedepo, informed the court that Nenadi and Yusuf’s bail applications were served on the prosecution yesterday and that he needed time to respond to them.
He, however, conceded that Fani-Kayode’s bail application had been served on the Commission since June 16, but that he was waiting to respond to the three applications at once since the court will give a joint ruling on them.
Oyedepo then urged the court for an adjournment to enable him respond to all the applications.
The EFCC counsel further told the court that the Commission’s remand facility was over-stretched and that one of the accused persons had alleged that he was being assaulted by the Commission’s officials, so the right place to remand the accused persons was the prison.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan noted that the prosecution was only served on Monday and in the interest of justice, he should be given time to respond to the applications.
He then adjourned the matter till Friday, July 1, for hearing and ruling on bail applications.
The judge, however, ordered that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody until the next adjourned date.
One of the charge reads, “That you, Nnenadi Esther Usman, Femi Fani-Kayode, Danjuma Yusuf and Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd, on or about January 8, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000 which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.”
The count 17 reads: “That you, Femi Fani-Kayode and Olubode Oke (still at large) on or about February 12,2015 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, without going through a financial institution made cash payment in the sum of N6 million to Paste Poster Co (PPC) of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.