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Alleged N4.9bn fraud: Ex-finance minister has case to answer, court rules

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday dismissed an application by former Minister of Finance Nenadi Usman and others seeking to strike out an alleged N4.9billion fraud charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Nenadi is standing trial alongside former Minister of Aviation and a prominent member of the 2015 Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation Femi Fani-Kayode.

Charged with them are a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Yusuf Danjuma and a company – Joint-Trust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd.

Justice Daniel Osiagor held that the application was without merit and adjourned till October 13, 14 & 15 for the defendants’ re-arraignment and trial.

The trial has been on since 2017 with the defendants arraigned and re-arraigned before Justices Muslim Hassan and Rilwan Aikawa.

It is now before Justice Osiagor.

At the resumed sitting Thursday, counsel to the first defendant, Chief Ferdinand Orbih SAN moved an application praying the court to strike out the charges against the first defendant on the ground that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain them.

The motion dated July 6, 2021, and filed the same day argued that the prosecution in the 17-count charge failed to specify the location within Nigeria where the alleged offences were committed.

Counsel to the 2nd defendant, Norrison Quakers SAN also prayed the court to allow the application stand and uphold the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Belgore and Professor Abubakar vs EFCC.

The 3rd and 4th defendant’s counsel, likewise aligned with the submissions of the Silk.

But prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo opposed them and prayed the court to hold that the application was an abuse of court process.

Oyedepo argued that in Counts 15-17 of the charge, Lagos was mentioned as the location of the offence, adding that where a statute prescribes the mode of doing an act, then that mode must be sustained.

He further prayed that the court should dismiss the application and allow the plea of the defendants to be taken in line with the amended charge.

In a bench ruling, Justice Osiagor held that although the lack of the location in counts 1-14 of the charge made the count defective, it did not take away the validity of the charge as counts 15-17 had a location.

He dismissed the motion and called on defendants to take their plea during their arraignment in October.

Usman, Fani-Kayode, one Danjuma Yusuf and a firm, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited were arraigned on June 28, 2017, before Justice Hassan on a seven-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and laundering of N4.9billion.

Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Publicity of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign organisation for the 2015 election, was accused of conspiring with the others to d, directly and indirectly, retain various sums, which the EFCC claimed they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of crime.

The four were also accused of indirectly retaining N300m, N400m and N800m, all proceeds of corruption, according to the EFCC.

The agency said they allegedly committed the offence between January 8 and March 25, 2015, ahead of the 2015 general elections.

But Fani-Kayode objected to being tried before Justice Hassan and the defendants were re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on May 15, on a similar charge.

Justice Aikawa was transferred to the court’s Akure division early this year, following which the matter was reassigned to Justice Osiagor who moved to Lagos from the Owerri division.

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