Despite stiff protest by his lawyer, the former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani Kayode was yesterday recommenced for trial by a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos.
He was re-arraigned before Justice Fatimat Nyako on a 47-count charge on which he was first arraigned on December 23, 2008 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Ahmed Mohammed.
The decision to re-arraign the ex-minister was informed by the reassignment of the case to Justice Nyako, a development which arose from a judgment of the Court of Appeal last year. The court held that electronically generated account statement was admissible in evidence and directed a continuation of the trial.
Fani-Kayode pleaded not guilty to the charge yesterday. He is charged with money laundering offences including transacting in funds exceeding N500, 000 without using a financial institution; accepting cash payment of about N230 million; collaboration to conceal and concealment.
His counsel, Chief Ladi Williams, (SAN), had in a bid to prevent his re-arraignment, argued against the planned recommencement of his client’s trial on the ground that he was still before the Supreme Court, challenging the Appeal Court’s judgment of 2010.
He urged the court to adjourn the case beyond May 21, a day, he said, the Supreme Court has scheduled for the hearing of a motion seeking to stay proceedings in the case at the lower court.
Williams told the court that an interlocutory appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, which admitted the statement of account of the accused person as evidence, has been entered at the Supreme Court.
He also premised his opposition to the re-arraignment of his client on the ground that the Appeal Court’s judgment did not order for a fresh trial.
EFCC counsel Festus Afeiyodian countered Williams’ argument, stressing that the re-assignment of the case has rendered the interlocutory appeal lodged at the apex court was an academic exercise.
He argued that there is no proof that the said interlocutory appeal has been entered at the Supreme Court.
After the parties’ argument, the court ruled in favour of the prosecution and directed that Fani-Kayode’s plea be taken afresh; following which he was granted bail, having pleaded not guilty. He is to remain on bail on the conditions attached to the earlier bail.
Nyako ordered Fani-Kayode not to travel out of the country pending the final determination of the case. She also directed his lawyers to ensure that all necessary processes regarding the interlocutory appeal were filed and adjourned the case to April 24 for mention.