The Supreme Court has fixed January the 15th for judgment in the case of a former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who is accused of fraud to the tune of N500 million.
The apex court after concluding the hearing of the case will determine whether or not Mr Ikuforiji should be tried afresh as ordered by the Court of Appeal.
Ikuforiji had earlier been discharged of the fraud charges by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos on the ground that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission failed to establish a prima facie case against him.
But the EFCC, not being satisfied with Justice Buba’s ruling, appealed the judgment and the Court of Appeal, in November 2016, overturned Justice Buba’s verdict and ordered that Mr Ikuforiji be tried afresh by another judge.
The apex court also dismissed an appeal filed by Ikuforiji’s ex-aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, with whom he was charged with the alleged N600 million fraud.
In its submission before the supreme court, the anti-graft agency argued that Justice Buba erred in law when he pronounced that the charges against Ikuforiji and Atoyebi were incompetent because they were brought under the Money Laundering Act (2004).
It was however said to have been revoked by the same act as amended in 2011.
The trial of the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji will resume tomorrow (Tuesday) with the continuation of the testimony of the first prosecution witness.
At the last sitting of the court, last year, the Witness, Adebayo Adeniji, an investigating officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had told trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke that several cash registers were recovered from the accounts department of the Lagos House of Assembly, confirming the alleged money laundering charges against the speaker.
Mr Ikuforiji and his personal assistant, Alade Atoyebi are facing a 20 charges of misappropriating about N500 million of the Lagos State House funds, an offence which contravenes Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.
The EFCC on Monday however moved an application to halt temporarily, the trial of both men pending the response of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to a letter seeking the re-assignment of the criminal trial to another judge.
According to the prosecution, the letter to the Chief Judge was based on the fact that the trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke is due to retire in May 2013 and may not conclude the matter before then.
Counsel to the Speaker, Tayo Oyetibo however urged the court to dismiss the letter and continue with the trial. He argued that the right to speedy hearing is an indisputable aspect of fair hearing.
In a bench ruling, Justice Okeke held that the letter before the Chief Judge for re-assignment is not an appeal neither does it constitute a stay of proceedings. He ruled that until the Court hears from the Chief Judge, it would continue with the matter and subsequently adjourned to the 19, 20 and 21 of February for continuation of trial.
The Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos on Thursday dismissed the application brought by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji to quash the money laundering charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC). The presiding judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke in a ruling delivered in a packed courtroom filled with Mr Ikuforiji’s supporters and some lawmakers, held that the reasons canvassed in support of the application to quash the charges were not tenable.
The court also dismissed a counter motion filed by the EFCC challenging the propriety of the Speaker’s application; the judge held that the objection raised by the commission was misconceived, and lacking in merit.
Justice Okeke in his ruling also faulted the Speaker’s argument that since the alleged acts were done in his capacity as the Speaker he was not liable as that would amount to suing Lagos State government.
According to the court such reasoning cannot stand because the Speaker and his aide were charged to court in their own capacity.
The judge maintained that “If the prosecution had wanted to, it could have filed the action against the Lagos State Government or the Attorney-General, but this action is filed against the accused persons.
The motion to quash the charge was therefore dismissed while the court ordered an accelerated hearing of the matter.
It will be recalled that the EFCC had on March 1, 2012 arraigned Mr Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on an amended 20-count of money laundering.
The commission is accusing the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and his aide of accepting cash payment from the Assembly to the tune of N501 million without going through a financial institution.
Justice Okeke adjourned the case till the 24 October for commencement of trial.