Alleged N26m Fraud: Absence of lead counsel stalls Fani-Kayode’s trial
The trial of former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode could not go on at the Federal High Court Abuja on Monday due to the absence of his lead counsel, Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN.
At the resumed hearing, the Prosecution Counsel, Mr Farouk Abdullah told the court that the business of the matter was for continuation of trial to allow the defence team cross examine the third prosecution witness.
“The witness is in court and with the permission of the court, we are ready to proceed,” Abdullah said.
However, Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Mr Zakari Garba who was holding brief for Raji informed the court that they received information only on Friday that the matter had been slated for hearing on Monday.
He said that moreover, Raji who was the lead counsel wanted to cross examine the witness himself to ensure that the justice of the case was served.
“I confirm that the matter is for continuation of trial for the cross examination of the third prosecution witness but we got to know of the date for today’s hearing only on Friday.
“When we reached the defendant on Sunday, he said he was in Zamfara and had to come in today out of respect for the court.
“Also when we communicated the date to the lead counsel, he indicated that he wants to cross examine the witness himself but he is not available as he is out of town.”
The counsel said that the case was a sensitive criminal matter adding that it would not serve the interest of justice for the defendant to be foreclosed from cross examining the witness.
Garba prayed the court for an adjournment to enable Raji appear in court and cross examine the witness himself.
Abdullah opposed the application for an adjournment saying that Raji was not in court when the third prosecution witness gave his testimony so it was untenable for the defence to base it’s application for adjournment on that ground.
He also said the law had gone past a situation where a counsel would insist on cross examining a witness personally.
He held that should the defence insist on not going on with the business of the day, it would appear they were not ready to cross examine the witness and should be foreclosed.
In a ruling, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho said that the court’s records showed that Raji was the lead counsel in the case having participated in the case before and cross examined the second prosecution witness.
” The court refrains from foreclosing the defence from cross examining the witness,” the judge said.
He adjourned the matter untill Oct. 26 for the defence to cross examine the third prosecution witness.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Fani-Kayode was docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a five count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
He allegedly collected N26 million from the Office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and using same for media campaign, contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering Act.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million and one surety in like sum.