A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Wednesday said it will hear an application challenging its jurisdiction in the ongoing trial of Femi Fani-Kayode facing charges of money laundering.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Fani-Kayode and a former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion.
They were charged along with Yusuf Danjuma, a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Also charged is a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd, which is said to belong to Danjuma.
They had all pleaded not guilty.
The 17-count charge borders on conspiracy, unlawful retention of crime proceeds and money laundering.
At the last adjourned date, counsels representing the accused, Mr Norrisson Quakers (SAN), Mr Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) and Mr S.I Ameh (SAN) had all declined to cross examine a first witness for the prosecution.
They had all urged the court to adjourn the suit to a date when all pending applications on jurisdiction would be heard and determined by the court, adding that it would serve the interest of justice to so do.
Delivering his ruling on whether or not to hear the pending applications of defence counsels on Wednesday, Justice Muslim Hassan recalled all arguments earlier canvassed by counsels to the accused.
Hassan noted all relevant authorities and statutory provisions cited by defence and prosecuting counsels in their arguments for and against a preliminary hearing of pending applications before a continuation of trial.
The judge then held: “I have reproduced the relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act for purposes of clarity.
“Section 221 of the Act provides that an objection can be taken on the basis of an incompetent charge; Section 273 provides that an accused who pleads not guilty to a charge has submitted to the court’s jurisdiction.
“It is also the law that after the plea of an accused has been taken, an objection can be raised at any in relation to the charge before judgment.
“The law also provides that trial shall be from day to day with adjournment not exceeding five (5) times, the court is also at liberty to award cost in other to avoid frivolous adjournments.
“From a close reading of these statutory provisions, it is clear that the pending applications are not on the competence of the charge, but outside the scope of the ACJA, as the second defendant is apprehensive that he will not get fair trial.
“In view of the foregoing provisions and on the basis of fair hearing and the interest of justice, I will take the three pending applications.
“But I must state that cross examination of PW1 does not amount to a waiver of jurisdiction.’’
The court thereafter, fixed Feb. 8 for hearing of all pending applications.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained more than N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the accused were alleged to have unlawfully used more than N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile, in counts 15 to17, Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
All offences were said to have contravened the Provisions of Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.