The Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has adjourned for another 54 days the N4.9bn fraud suit against a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and others, having resumed trial on the matter only yesterday since it was adjourned over three months ago.

When the matter came up in June, it was adjourned till September 26 and 27 for ruling on Mr. Fani-Kayode’s application seeking the transfer of the case to Abuja. In the court’s ruling yesterday, the court dismissed the application for having no merit and adjourned till today, September 27, for continuation of trial.

At the resumption of trial today, Norrison Quakers, counsel for Fani-Kayode, cross-examined Idowu Olusegun, a witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In his cross examination, he sought to establish a contradiction between the testimony the witness gave in chief and the extra-judicial statement he had volunteered to the EFCC. Mr. Quakers asked the witness if he disclosed to EFCC in his statement that it was one Mr. Adebayo who secured the controversial contract with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for him, to which he responded; “I cannot remember if such was asked”.

As Mr. Quakers moved to continue, the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, raised an objection to the stance that defense cannot cross-examine the witness based on a statement that was not tendered as evidence. 

After a back-and-forth between the defense and the prosecution, Mr. Quakers sought the leave of the court for the prosecution to tender as evidence the statement extracted from the witness. The document was tendered but Mr. Oyedepo again raised an objection on the premise that before the statement can be tendered in evidence, the defense must establish any contradiction between the testimony given in chief and what was written in the statement.

The presiding judge, Justice Ridwan Aikawa, overruled Mr. Oyedepo’s objection and ordered that the statement be tendered.  It was marked as evidence.

The witness had earlier informed the court that he received the sum of N30 million in two tranches from the Goodluck Jonathan campaign organization as fee for media consultancy services and the printing of posters and flyers for the 2015 election.

Mr. Olusegun also told the court that he received the payment from one Mr. Oke. When asked if he ever had any interaction with the 2nd defendant, Mr. Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Publicity of ex-President Jonathan’s presidential campaign organization for the 2015 election, he said; “No, I never had any dealing with the 2nd defendant”.

The witness was subsequently discharged and another witness, a member of staff of Zenith Bank, Mr. Teslim Ajuwon, was called to tender documents about the bank transactions of Joint Dimension Limited.  Led by the prosecution, Mr. Ajuwon tendered the account opening document and statement of account of the company.

The defense counsel opposed the admissibility of the documents, stating that the documents failed to comply with the provision of the Evidence Act.

“We object to these documents purportedly gotten from Zenith Bank. There is a purported certification from the office of the EFCC in Lagos. My Lord, the certification is neither signed nor dated. That is not in conformity with the Evidence Act," he said.

He argued that it was clear that the original copies of the documents sought to be tendered were in the custody of the EFCC, in which case they ought to follow strictly the provisions of the Evidence Act.

He stressed that the documents, in the unlikely event that they were admitted in evidence, would be worthless because an uncertified document cannot be relevant. 

“If it is not signed or dated, it is of no value to all,” he declared. 

“I have further objection to the statement of account which is predicated on non-compliance with the evidence act that deals specifically with bankers’ book’ the certification of the list of document cannot serve as certification for all the document. It only covers for document generated through computers. A general principle cannot substitute for specifics."

“I urged my Lord to reject the document and mark same rejected,” Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), lawyer to Esther Nwando Usman, argued.

The lawyers of the defendants all aligned with the submission of Mr. Orbih.

Mr. Oyedepo, who had the option to either join issues with the defense counsel or withdraw the document, opted for the second option. He withdrew the documents and asked for an adjournment.

Fani-Kayode and a former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, along with one Danjuma Yusuf and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited, were first arraigned before Justice Muhammed Hassan who later recused himself from the case when Fani-Kayode claimed he might not get fair hearing before the judge.

The case was re-assigned to Justice Aikawa and the defendant re-arraigned on May 16. They are facing 17 counts of conspiracy and money laundering. Further trial will continue on November 21 and 22, 2017.

Femi Fani-Kayode

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