The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed March 1 for the commencement of trial of former Oyo State Governor, Mr Rashidi Ladoja, alongside one of his aides, Waheed Akanbi, over an alleged 4.7 billion Naira fraud.
The date was fixed after counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Oluwafemi Olabisi, urged the court for an adjournment to enable him supply to the defence team the names of witnesses that would testify in the matter.
The former governor and his aide were arraigned before the court by the EFCC on an amended eight-count charge of alleged money laundering and unlawful conversion of funds belonging to the Oyo State government.
Mr Ladoja and Mr Akanbi, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Attempts made by the prosecution counsel on Tuesday to examine the first prosecution witness in the case was rebutted by lawyers to the defendants, Mr Bolaji Onilenla and Mr Olumide Fusika.
The lawyers argued that the witness could not testify on grounds that his name was not on the list of witnesses earlier supplied to them by the anti-graft agency in 2008.
They also insisted that what the EFCC was trying to do was to set an ambush for them, stating that it was contrary to the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Although Mr Olabisi admitted the error, he pointed out that as at the time they filed the case nine years ago, the Administration of Criminal Justice Law had not been promulgated.
He therefore urged the court to adjourn the proceedings to enable him file additional proof of evidence to rectify the error.
After listening to the counsel, Justice Idris adjourned the case till March 1 for commencement of trial.
- In one of the counts, Ladoja and Akanbi were accused of converting a sum of 1,932,940,032.48 Naira belonging to Oyo State government to theirs, using a Guaranty Trust Bank account of a company, Heritage Apartments Limited.
- The EFCC claimed that they retained the money sometime in 2007, despite their knowledge that it was proceeds of a criminal conduct.
- In another instance, the former governor was accused of removing a sum of £600,000 from the state coffers in 2007 and sent it to one Bimpe Ladoja, who was at the time in London.
- He was also accused of converting a sum of 42 million naira belonging to the state to his own and subsequently used it to purchase an armoured Land Cruiser jeep.
- Mr Ladoja was also accused of converting a sum of 728,600,000 Naira and another 77,850,000 Naira at separate times in 2007 to his own.
- The EFCC claimed that he transferred the 77, 850,000 Naira to one Bistrum Investments, which he nominated to help him purchase a property named Quarter 361 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
- The anti-graft agency stated that the offences are contrary to sections 17(a) and 18(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
- They added that the crimes are liable to be punished under sections 14(1), 16(a)(b) and 18(2) of the same act.
A Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos has fixed December 14, for the re-arraignment of a former Governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja and one of his aides, Waheed Akanbi over an alleged 4.7 billion Naira fraud.
Justice Mohammed Idris fixed the date after ruling on an application by the EFCC seeking the issuance of a bench warrant on the two defendants for not making themselves available to answer to the charges against them.
Justice Idris turned down the application for the arrest of the defendants owing to the appearance of both men in court on Friday.
The court, however, refused the request of the defendants for a stay of proceedings in the matter pending the outcome of an appeal lodged at the Supreme Court against the ruling of the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court which ordered their trial.
The Appeal Court had held that the anti-graft agency has powers to prosecute them under the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004.
Justice Idris therefore held that the request for a stay of proceedings was against the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015.
In 2008, the EFCC had arraigned both men on a 10-count charge of laundering the 4.7 billion naira.
In the charge, the EFCC alleged that the duo conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that ex-Governor Ladoja used 42 million naira out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser SUV, and remitted about £600,000 to one, Bimpe Ladoja in London.
They had at the time challenged the charges and the powers of the EFCC to prosecute them but six years after, the Court of Appeal has paved the way for their re-arraignment.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Igbosere, Lagos Island, has reserved judgement in the suit instituted by former governor of Oyo State, Chief Rasheed Ladoja, against the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The court reserved judgment after taking arguments from lawyers in the matter.
The former governor had approached the appellate court to seek an order to quash the 4.7 billion Naira corruption charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2007.
Rasheed Ladoja had argued that the proof of evidence placed before the trial court by the EFCC had no nexus with the charge against him, and also did not establish any prima facie case against him. The former governor consequently prayed the appellate court to hold that the anti-graft agency had no power, jurisdiction or authority to file any criminal charge against him.
The anti-graft agency had arraigned the former governor before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos on November 2008, alongside his former aide, Mr Waheed Akanbi, on an amended 10-count charge of laundering 4.7 billion Naira belonging to the Oyo State government.
The duo were alleged to have conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an alleged illegal act, with the intention of concealing the illicit origin of the properties and resources.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that the embattled former governor used about 42 million Naira to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about 600,000.00 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja in London. But the duo pleaded not guilty to the charge and have been on bail since.
Channels Television’s judiciary Correspondent, Shola Soyele, reports that the court is expected to communicate the date for delivery of judgment on the case to the lawyers as soon as it is ready.