Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday blasted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for re-arresting former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode within the court premises.
Fani-Kayode had appeared in court following his arraignment with a former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion. They pleaded not guilty.
They were charged along with former Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State Mr. Yusuf Danjuma and a company said to belong to him, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
Justice Hassan granted them bail, but the commission’s agents re-arrested Fani-Kayode as he was stepping out of the court on October 21 when he came for trial.
He was subsequently taken to the court’s Abuja Division where he was arraigned before Justice John Tsoho on fresh N26million fraud charge.
According to The Nation, when the case resumed before Justice Hassan in Lagos yesterday, Fani-Kayode was absent. His lawyer, Mr S. I. Balogun, told Justice Hassan that Fani-Kayode was in detention at Kuje Prison having not met his bail conditions.
He said: “When he was arrested in Lagos, EFCC did not exhibit any arrest warrant. The team leader said he was acting on orders from above.
“After his arraignment in Abuja, EFCC lied to the judge that it was through intelligence that Fani-Kayode was arrested and that he would jump bail. They never disclosed that he was arrested in court.
“As at this morning, he has been transferred to Kuje Prison. His family and friends have been making efforts to perfect his bail. We condemn in strong terms the prosecution’s style.”
Danjuma’s lawyer, Mr S. I. Ameh (SAN), said EFCC’s action was an affront on the court.
“Most times they do these things because they get away with it. They should have produced him in court this morning to show that what they did was not deliberate,” he said.
EFCC’s lawyer Oyedepo Rotimi said the case in Abuja had no connection with the one in Lagos. He said he was not aware that Fani-Kayode was rearrested within the court as he was attending to another case before another judge on the day of the incident.
“My attention was not drawn to his arrest in court even though I was before another judge,” he said.
He said Fani-Kayode was arrested “with a view to serving him with the charge and presenting him before Justice Tsoho for the purpose of his arraignment”.
While Rotimi was speaking, the judge cut in and said: ” He (Fani-Kayode) was arrested in the court premises in flagrant disobedient of the order of this court and kept in detention for 21 days.”
The judge went on: “In a civilised society, are you supposed to keep him in detention after he was granted bail?”
When Rotimi said he was not part of Fani-Kayode’s re-arrest, Justice Hassan said: “Instead of defending what you don’t know, you should have simply said you were not privy to the facts of the case.”
It was at this point that Rotimi apologised, saying: “In the unlikely event that your Lordship construes his arrest as disobedience to the order granting him bail, we apologise.”
In a short ruling while adjourning the case, the judge said he would not make any further comments in order prejudice any application Fani-Kayode may file against his re-arrest.
Usman’s lawyer Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) said his client has a pending application praying the court to transfer the case to Abuja.
“In summary, we’re saying the forum is not convenient,” he said.
In the charge before Justice Hassan, Fani-Kayode and others were accused of indirectly retaining N300million, N400million and N800million, all proceeds of corruption. EFCC said they allegedly committed the offence between last January 8 and last March 25, 2015 ahead of last year’s general election.
In another count, the prosecution alleged that Fani-Kayode directly retained N350million which he ought to have “reasonably known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
The commission said Fani-Kayode directly used the sum of N170million, among other sums, which he reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of corruption and stealing.
He was also accused of doing cash transaction of N24million with Olubode Oke, said to still be at large, without going through a financial institution.
The offence, EFCC said, violates sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b).
Justice Hassan adjourned until December 12 for trial.