The arraignment of a Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, before Justice Oluwabunmi Abike-Fadipe of the Special Offences Court in the Ikeja area of Lagos, was stalled on Tuesday.
This is because the former Minister challenged the jurisdiction of the Special Offences Court sitting in the Ikeja area of Lagos, to hear the charge.
Through his lawyer, Wale Balogun, the Former Minister told Justice Olubunmi Abike-Fadipe that the allegation of procurement of a “fabricated” medical report made against him by the Economic and Crimes Commission (EFCC) was said to have occurred in Abuja, and not in Lagos.
He insisted that he could not be tried in Lagos.
This submission was made after the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo asked the court to compel the defendant to take his plea to the 12-count.
The anti-graft agency had specifically accused Fani-Kayode of procuring one Dr Ogieva Oziegbe to issue the fake medical report, which he allegedly tendered before the Federal High Court, where is currently standing trial before Justice Daniel Osiagor for money laundering.
According to the EFCC, Femi Fani-Kayode on October 11, 2021, in Kubwa, Abuja, fraudulently connived with one Dr Ogieva Oziegbe to execute a document titled: MEDICAL REPORT ON Olufemi Fani Kayode 60 YEARS/MALE/HOSP. NO.00345 and purported same to have been issued by Kubwa General Hospital.
The EFCC noted that procuring and execution of documents by false pretence is contrary to section 369 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015.
But the defence lawyer, Wale Balogun opposed the application and submitted that he had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.
The EFCC counsel on his part asked the court to dismiss the application describing it as an attempt to frustrate the trial especially since the defendant was charged under a Lagos law. He argued that the matter could only be heard in the state.
He also stressed that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law has addressed various antics and frivolous applications filed by parties aimed at delaying the wheel of justice and frustrating the trial.
In his counter-reaction, Balogun told the court that the various authorities cited by the prosecution were wrongly interpreted.
He emphasised that his application was not to challenge the validity of the charge but to challenge the court’s jurisdictions to preside over the matter.
The lawyer, therefore, urged the court to hear the application and rule on it before a plea could be taken.
After listening to the lawyers, Justice Abike-Fadipe fixed December 17 for her ruling.
Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Lagos had on October 13, 2021, imposed a cost of N200,000 on Fani-Kayode over his failure to appear before the court for re-arraignment.
Fani-Kayode is standing trial before the court alongside former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman and two others on a 17-count of conspiracy and laundering N4.6 billion but due to the transfer of the former trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa the matter was resigned to Justice Osiagor.
While other defendants were present in court for the re-arraignment, the former Minister sent a letter to the court claiming that his doctors had placed him on bed rest.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mrs Bilikisu Buhari informed the court that the letters by the second defendant had become numerous and had also become an excuse for him to evade court.
She said, “this is the third time he will be writing this type of letter from the same hospital. Whenever he doesn’t want to attend court, this is the type of letter we get.”
But, Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Bobo Fred-Ajudua, cut in and informed the judge that although Fani-Kayode’s illness was a recurring one, he had attended court regularly, and this can be shown from the courts records.
He asked the court to grant an adjournment in favour of his client.
At this point, the trial judge, decided to go through the court’s file, and after searching, the court discovered that the second defendant had sought a similar medical excuse five times.
The court then asked the defence counsel to take one of two options which were: to either revoke the bail of the second defendant or to impose a fine of N200,000 to be paid before the next trial date.
The defence counsel choose the latter option.