Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Thursday failed to give judgment in the money laundering trial involving a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, due to the absence of the prosecution counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo.
The judge chose not to deliver the verdict in Keyamo’s absence, although the lawyer was represented in court.
Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), urged the judge to go on and deliver the judgment since it was ready.
He said the law did not make it mandatory that a prosecuting counsel must be present before a judgment is delivered in a criminal case.
The senior advocate said even if someone is holding a watching brief for the prosecuting counsel, the judgment could still be delivered.
But Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia insisted that she was more comfortable reading the judgment in Keyamo’s presence.
She stood the case down for 10 minutes to enable the lawyer from Keyamo’s chambers, Mr. Festus Afeiyodion, to confirm from his principal the day he would be available.
About an hour later, Afeiyodion told the judge that Keyamo requested for a short stand-down to enable him come, as he was handling another matter elsewhere.
“Mr. Keyamo asked that the matter be stood down till 1.30pm. By then, he would be through and be here personally.
In the alternative, he suggested that any other day could be chosen and he will be here,” Afeiyodion said.
Adedipe, after briefly conferring with Fani-Kayode, said they would not mind waiting till 1.30pm.
However, the judge said she would prefer not to deliver the judgment under pressure as the day would have been far gone by that time.
Apparently to prove that the judgment was indeed ready, she displayed a typewritten material on her tablet, saying she prefers to read it out at a convenient time.
Fani-Kayode was accused of making a transaction exceeding N500, 000 on September 20, 2006, which was not done through a financial institution.
He was alleged to have accepted N2.1 million in cash, which was paid into his personal bank account by his aide, Supo Agbaje, while he served as Minister of Culture and Tourism.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the alleged offence which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said contravenes the Money Laundering Act.