Former Minister of Aviation Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has asked Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos, before whom he is being tried for alleged money laundering, to withdraw from the case.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), arraigned Fani-Kayode and former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, on a 17-count of laundering about N4.6 billion, they pleaded not guilty.
The 17-count borders on alleged conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and corruption and money laundering.
Fani-Kayode said sometime in 2008, he was tried by the EFCC on a 47-count charge before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumobia.
He said the charge was “drafted, prepared, settled and executed” by Justice Hassan when he (Hassan) was still a legal officer at EFCC.
The former minister, who was acquitted, said EFCC “vigorously” prosecuted the charge against him within a period of seven years while Hassan remained a prosecuting counsel at EFCC.
In a fresh application to challenge the court’s jurisdiction, Fani-Kayode said as a former EFCC lawyer, who had filed criminal charges against him in the past for which he was discharged and acquitted, he would not get justice under Justice Hassan.
He said upon conclusion of his tenure as minister of Aviation in 2007, the EFCC had investigated him for sundry matters that culminated in criminal charges.
He stated that Justice Hassan was the commission’s lead counsel that reviewed his case and concluded he should be charged to court for criminal prosecution.
The former minister said Justice Hassan as EFCC senior counsel, who prepared and filed the charge sheet against him, believed while instituting the criminal process that a prima facie criminal case had been established against him before preparing, drafting and filling the criminal charge against him.
He said he was arraigned before the Lagos Division of the court on a 47-count charge signed by Justice Hassan as a senior prosecuting counsel for EFCC in 2008.
According to him, the charges bordered mainly on his activities as minister.
He contended that Justice Hassan, being at that time an EFCC senior prosecuting counsel, must have believed or formed an opinion about him that as minister, he must have abused his office and corruptly enriched himself and thereby committed a financial crime against the country.
He added that as a result of the charges, he was prosecuted by the anti-graft agency for about seven years before he was discharged and acquitted by the court.
Forty-five counts were dropped, leaving only two counts, which went to trial.
He was subsequently discharged and acquitted of them.
Fani-Kayode is, therefore, praying the judge to withdraw from the pending proceedings because of the likelihood of bias.
The former minister said he believed the court as presently constituted would not guarantee fair trial, neither is he guaranteed neutrality, impartiality or fair hearing of his case before the court.
Besides, Fani-Kayode said the transactions leading to the charge occurred in Abuja while he was director of Media and Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation with its office in Abuja, adding that he also lives in Abuja.
He is, therefore, praying the court for an order to return the file to the chief judge for reassignment to another judge sitting in the Abuja division.
The case comes up for hearing on February 8.
- Source - The Nation