Read previous post on case here.
Hon. Justice Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos in a ruling delivered this morning agreed to hear the three applications filed by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and the other defendants in the 17-count money laundering charge pending before the court.
Trial had commenced in the charge on the 21st of October 2016 with the prosecution calling its first witness, Mr. Idowu Olusegun. His examination in chief was concluded yesterday, the 17th of January 2017. When counsel to the different defendants were called upon to cross-examine the witness, each argued that he could not proceed with cross-examination in view of the pendency of applications filed by them which ought to be heard by the court before trial proceeds. The 1st Defendant, former minister Nenadi Usman has an application seeking to severe the charge and to have the charge against her tried in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The 2nd Defendant, Mr. Fani-Kayode has an application challenging the competence of the court to entertain the charge while the 3rd and 4th Defendants – Mr. Danjuma Yusuf and Joint Trust Dimensions Ltd – have an application also seeking to severe the charge. The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo had opposed the application by the defendants to have their applications heard first before proceeding to cross-examination. He had argued that by the provisions of Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, applications are to be taken with the substantive suit and ruling deferred to the time of delivering judgment. He further argued that by the provisions of Sections 273 of the ACJA, the Defendants having pleaded to the charge were deemed to have submitted themselves up for trial. He urged the court to direct the defendants to cross-examine the prosecution’s first witness. The court had adjourned his ruling till this morning.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan first reproduced the relevant sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. He quoted the provisions of Sections 221, 273 and 396 (1) – (7). He stated that the objections raised by the Defendants in their different applications were in respect of venue, severance of the charge and competence of the court to adjudicate upon the matter and that these matters were outside the scope of the objections referred to in the ACJA. He therefore found that it would accord with fairness and fair hearing to hear the three pending applications before continuing with the trial of the suit. He however added that contrary to the position adopted by the 2nd Defendant’s lawyers, the cross examination of the prosecution’s witness would not amount to a waiver by the defendant on the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge.
The charge has been adjourned to the 8th of February 2017 for hearing of the three applications.
Please read the relevant provisions of the ACJA 2015 considered below:
Objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceeding or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge.
A defendant who pleads not guilty shall be deemed to have put himself to trial.
(1) The defendant to be tried on an information or charge shall be arraigned in accordance with the provisions of this Act relating to the taking of pleas and the procedure on it.
(2) After the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or the information at any time before judgment provided that such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling thereon made at the time of delivery of judgment.
(3) Upon arraignment, the trial of the defendant shall proceed from day-to-day until the conclusion of the trial.
(4) Where day-to-day trial is impracticable after arraignment, no party shall be entitled to more than five adjournments from arraignment to final judgment provided that the interval between each adjournment shall not exceed 14 working days.
(5) Where it is impracticable to conclude a criminal proceeding after the parties have exhausted their five adjournments each, the interval between one adjournment to another shall not exceed seven days inclusive of weekends.
(6) In all circumstances, the court may award reasonable costs in order to discourage frivolous adjournments.
(7) Notwithstanding the provision of any other law to the contrary, a judge of the High Court who has been elevated to the Court of Appeal shall have dispensation to continue to sit as a High Court Judge only for the purpose of concluding any part-heard criminal matter pending before him at the time of his elevation and shall conclude the same within a reasonable time:
Provided that this subsection shall not prevent him from assuming duty as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.