A Federal High Court sitting at Ikoyi, southwest Nigeria, on Friday ordered that the trial of former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode, former Finance Minister Nenadi Usman, and one Danjuma Yusuf, who were accused of N4.9billion money laundering, should immediately get under way.
The accused persons were being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The order by Presiding Judge Mallan Sule followed an application argued before the court by defense counsel seeking an adjournment. This, said the lawyers, was to enable the accused persons ample time to prepare their defense, given that the proof of evidence served on them did not contain the statements of the witnesses.
EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, strongly opposed the defense’s application, urging the court to start the trial at once.
Justice Sule, in his ruling, dismissed the application as mere technicality and a ploy to further delay the trial of the accused persons, as the witness set to be called by the prosecution has his statement attached to the proof of evidence. Besides, said the judge, the witness could give his evidence immediately, while the court would adjourn till a later date for cross -examination.
The trial was in progress, and the first witness had been called to give evidence at the time of filing this report.
Fani-Kayode, Usman, and Dajuma are being tried before the court by the EFCC on a 17-count charge of unlawful retention, use and payment of money to the tune of about N4.9 billion.
The three accused persons and a limited liability company, Joint Trust Dimension Nigeria Limited, were alleged to have committed the offenses between January and March 2015.
Fani-Kayode, who was Director of Media and Publicity for 2015 election campaign by former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nenandi Usman, former Finance Minister under Jonathan's administration, and Danjuma Yusuf had all pleaded not guilty to the charges. They are currently on bail.
The offenses, according to the EFCC, are contrary to and punishable under sections 15 (3) & (4), 16 (2) (b) and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2012.