EFCC Re-arraigns Usman, Fani-Kayode, Two Others for Alleged N1.5bn Fraud

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Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, re-arraigned a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Esther Usman; a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode; a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON, Yusuf Danjuma and a company, Joint-Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited, on a 17-count charge bordering on conspiracy and unlawful retention to the tune of N1,500,000,000.00 before Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.

One of the counts read: “ That you, Nnenadi Esther Usman, Femi Fani-Kayode, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd., on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court in Lagos, conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition)(Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.”

The defendants, however, pleaded “not guilty” to the 17-count charge.

In view of their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court for a trial date.

However, counsel to the first defendant, Usman, Ferdinand Orbih, (SAN), urged the court to allow the the defendants to continue on the bail terms previously granted them by the court.

Oyedepo did not oppose the applications of the first and third defendants on the grounds that there were no records indicating that they had breached conditions of their previous bail.

Oyedepo, however, opposed the bail application of the second defendant, Femi Fani-Kayode, on the grounds that the records at his disposal, which were also before the court, had been found to be false.

Counsel to Fani-Kayode, Norrison Quakers (SAN), however, argued that his client “is not a flight risk and has not breached the terms of his bail condition.”

Justice Osiagor subsequently granted the prayers of the defence and ruled that the defendants continue on their existing bail.

Earlier in the proceedings, the defence counsel had sought to stay proceedings of the court.

Orbih argued that they had filed an application at the Court of Appeal and urged the court to “tarry a little while, pending the hearing and determination of the suit at the Appellate Court.”

In his response, Oyedepo opposed the prayers of the defence seeking to stay the proceedings.

According to him, “the court does not have the jurisdiction to tarry a while in the criminal proceedings.”

He relied on Section 40 of the EFCC Act, which states that, “The court shall not entertain any application to stay proceedings in a matter brought to it by the EFCC.”

Oyedepo also supported his argument with Section 306 of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, saying, “The stay of proceeding is a fundamental distraction to the criminal proceeding and I urge your lordship to not heed the prayers of the defence and allow their defendants take their pleas.”

Osiagor, in a short ruling, held that “the invitation to tarry a while is conflicting the sacrosanct provision of Section 40 of the EFCC Act and Section 306 of the ACJA,” addingthat “the application by the defence was not sustainable” and, therefore, refused the application.

He, however, called on the defendants to take their plea. The matter was adjourned to March 17, 2022.