Justice Ridwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Tuesday, dismissed the application of former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, challenging the jurisdiction of the court in hearing his alleged N4.9bn fraud lawsuit preferred against him and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ).
The judge in his ruling said some of the crimes committed happened in Lagos, stating the case of one Olusegun Idowu to gave evidence that Mr. Fani-Kayode paid him N30 million in cash to print posters during the 2015 presidential elections.He thereby dismissed Fani-Kayode's application for lacking merit.
"I am of the view that based on the facts and circumstances of this case, there is no justification for the transfer of this case to Abuja. The application lacks merit and is hereby dismissed" the judge ruled.
The judge also thought that if the case was deemed necessary to be transferred to Abuja, the former Chief Judge, Ibrahim Auta, would have transferred it to Abuja when the former presiding judge, Justice Muhammed Hassan, recused himself from the matter and sent the case file to the CJ for reassignment.
Fani-Kayode through his lawyer Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), had argued that the case be transferred to Abuja because all the transactions carried out while he was the Director of Media and Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation happened in Abuja. Mr. Quakers also said that his client lives in Abuja and has another case in the Abuja court.
However, EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said that Fani-Kayode should be tried in Lagos because the instruments of the alleged illegal transactions for which he was being tried, including cheques and receipts, 'were recovered in Lagos'. "The financial institutions used in the transactions have their head offices in Lagos," Oyedepo had argued. Oyedepo revealed that 13 out of the 17 witnesses listed in the proof of evidence are in Lagos. Oyedepo said; "The consequence of the alleged offense of money laundering is not limited to Abuja, but to the entire Federation."
He accused the former Aviation Minister of deploying antics to frustrate the smooth flow of his trial, stating that similar application was taken before Justice Hassan before he handed off the case. In opposing Justice Hassan handling of the case, Fani-Kayode had claimed he worried that he would not get a fair trial with the judge who was a former EFCC prosecutor.
The argument then was that Justice Hassan having been a part of a criminal case the anti-graft agency filed against Fani-Kayode sometimes in 2007, he argued that he is not sure the judge would be fair in the case.
Justice Aikawa also admitted into evidence the receipts issued by the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation by the printer, Olusegun Idowu, for a cash transaction of N30m. The case was adjourned to Wednesday for a continuation of trial.
Fani-Kayode alongside former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, one Danjuma Yusuf and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited are standing trial for the alleged N4.9bn fraud.
The 17 counts charges against them border on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
Fani-Kayode was accused of conspiring with the others to, directly and indirectly, retain various sums, which the EFCC claimed they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of crime.
In one of the counts, the defendants were accused of conspiring among themselves to "indirectly retain the sum of N1,5billion which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
The four were also accused of indirectly retaining N300m, N400m and N800m, all proceeds of corruption, according to EFCC.
EFCC said they allegedly committed the offence between January 8 and March 25, 2015 ahead of the 2015 general election.