A defence witness,Kola Olapoju, on Wednesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the transactions which led to the trial of a former Aviation Minister,Femi Fani-Kayode,were “unusual and exceptional”.
Olapoju, who is the first defence witness, said this while being cross-examined byFestus Keyamo, Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).EFCC is prosecuting Fani-Kayode before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia,over alleged money laundering offences he allegedly committed while serving as Minister of Culture and Tourism, and later Aviation.
The witness is also a co-administrator of Fani-Kayode’s late father’s estate.He told the court that the accused in 2006 requested for funds from the estate to pay some artisans who carried out repair work on the property in the estate. Olapoju said he had known Fani-Kayode for over 20 years and that he had been managing the properties of the estate for about 14 years.
He said that there were five beneficiaries of the estate, but were now four beneficiaries.“It is not usual for any of the beneficiaries to withdraw funds. It is the core administrator thatgives instructions on funds withdrawal,” Olapoju said.
The witness further stated that he had always been in regular contact with Fani-Kayode, until the accused became minister.Olapoju said that Fani-Kayode then instructed him to always take instruction from his Chief of Staff,Aderemi Ajidahun,on what to do in relation to the estate.
While speaking on the transactions, Olapoju recalled that Fani-Kayode had asked him to “urgently” get funds from tenants to pay artisans who carried out repairs in the estate.“In other to abridge time, I went out of my way to demand that a cheque be issued in my name,since I was in Abuja.
“I cashed the cheque and related with his Chief of Staff (Ajidahun), who later instructed that thecash be deposited in a bank account of the accused bySupo Agbaje,his personal assistant.“I went to the bank with Agbaje, but I did not go into the banking hall with him,” Olapoju said.
The witness said that the payments were made on Sept. 21 and 29, 2006.Olapoju, however, admitted that he did not see Agbaje depositing the cash into the account, and did not know whether there was any communication between Agbaje and the accused.
Ajidahun, testifying as the second defence witness, before the court, said that he was appointed by Fani-Kayode as his Chief of Staff, being an expert in Media, Hospitality and Branding Consultancy. Keyamo, while cross-examining the witness, said that he was just out to lie to the court so that his accused-friend could be freed.
The judge, however, adjourned further hearing in the case till March 26, for the testimony of the third defence witness. Ofili-Ajumogobia had earlier dismissed 38 out of the 40 counts against the accused. She had earlier ruled that the accused should prove his innocence in respect of the two other charges.