The Federal High Court in Lagos State on Wednesday awarded N200,000 cost against discredited former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, for his absence from court to take his plea on an alleged N4.6 billion fraud.
Fani-Kayode is being prosecuted before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, and one Danjuma Yusuf, a former chairman of ALGON, and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
The defendants’ prosecution had commenced since 2016, before Justice Sule Muslim Hassan, who has been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Midway to their trial before Justice Hassan, the defendants’ case file was transferred to Justice Rilwan Aikawa, on the ground that Justice Hassan, was formerly a legal officer with the prosecuting agency (EFCC).
However, while the matter was pending before Justice Aikawa, the defendants’ pleas were retaken.
Also, midway to the defendants’ trial, Justice Aikawa was transferred to another jurisdisction of the court; hence their case file was transferred to the new Judge, Justice Osiagor, for the matter to commence afresh.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today, the prosecutor, Mrs. Bilikisu Buhari, informed the court that the matter was to start afresh, but Fani-Kayode, who is the second defendant, was not in court to take his plea.
The prosecutor therefore urged the court to revoke the former Minister’s bail.
However, Fani-Kayode’s counsel, F. B. Ajudua, pleaded with the court not to revoke his bail, saying that a letter has been written on behalf of his client who he claimed is currently on ‘bed rest’, at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.
Ajudua also told the court that the second defendant has been readily attending his trial since the matter commenced in 2016.
He apologised for Fani-Kayode’s absence, begged the court not to revoke his bail, and also asked for a short adjournment.
But the trial judge, upon perusing the court’s records, discovered that the former Minister had been absent from court for five times, a development which the judge said has stalled the smooth hearing of the charge.
Justice Osiagor, therefore gave two options of either to revoke his bail or a fine of N200, 000, 00, and his counsel opted for fine option.
Following the fine option selected by the Counsel, Justice Osiagor, fined the former Minister N200,000,00 cost, which he ordered must be paid before the next adjourned date.
The matter has been adjourned till November 30, for the defendants’ rearraignment.