Alleged N338.8m Money Laundering: Trial Of Ex-Lagos Speaker Ikuforiji, Aide Resumes

Former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, attends his trial over allegations of money laundering at the Federal High Court in Lagos on November 25, 2020.

 

The re-trial of the former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on allegations of laundering N338.8 million continued on Wednesday at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ekene Iheanacho, continued with the testimony of the first prosecution witness, Adebayo Adeniyi, who is an investigative officer with the agency.

Adeniyi told the court that some cash account registers of some banks which had been admitted in exhibit were recovered from the Lagos State House of Assembly.

According to him, they showed that the second defendant, Atoyebi, collected money several times, above the financial threshold allowed by the Money Laundering Act.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Dele Adesina, the witness told the court that the former speaker did not collect the cash directly from the Treasury Department of the House, but had admitted during an investigation that all the money collected by Oyebode was done on his behalf and with his approval.

At the instance of the defence counsel, Justice Mohammed Liman adjourned until December 9, for the continuation of the cross-examination.

The retrial of the former speaker and his aide commenced on September 30 and they both pleaded not guilty to the allegations of laundering about N338 million.

Justice Mohammed Liman then allowed both men to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on 20 charges bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Following a re-assignment of the case, the defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

Justice Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sum.

He later discharged the defendants on September 26, 2014, after upholding their “no case submission applications”.

The judge had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC filed a Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014, to challenge the decision of the trial court.

It argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

The anti-graft agency added that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the Government.

It also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.

In its judgement in November 2016, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court agreed with the EFCC and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the decision of the appeal court, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the appellate court.

In its verdict in December 2017, the apex court upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.

This necessitated the current re-arraignment and re-trial before Justice Liman.

Fraud Allegations: Court Freezes Lagos Speaker Obasa’s Accounts

Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday ordered the interim freezing of three bank accounts belonging to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa.

The three accounts domiciled in Standard Chartered Bank and the funds placed in them are to be temporarily frozen pending the conclusion of the investigation and possible prosecution of the allegations of fraud made against the Speaker.

Justice Nicholas Oweibo made the order pursuant to a motion ex-parte filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC which is investigating the Speaker for offenses of conspiracy, diversion of funds, abuse of office and money laundering.

The EFCC said it filed the matter “Pursuant to section 44 (2) (K) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and section 26, 29, and 34 (1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.

After reading the affidavit evidence made by an EFCC investigator, Muhammed Abubakar, and listening to the submissions of the EFCC Counsel Ibrahim Suleiman, the court granted the order on September 15, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Speaker is said to have honored the EFCC’s investigation today to answer questions on the allegations made against him.

Trial of Lagos Speaker Stalls Again

The ongoing trial of the current Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, has yet again stalled as the Federal High Court in Lagos was for the umpteenth time unable to sit.

The sitting scheduled for Tuesday November 19, failed to hold because of the absence of the prosecuting counsel of the EFCC, and the case may soon go into history as one of the longest cases ever, if the situation continues.

It was learnt that the EFCC Counsel, Mr. Godwin Obla had written the court and the Defence Counsel that he would be absent from court because he was to deliver a paper at an undisclosed event on Tuesday.

Mr. Edward Okpe, who represented Obla at the proceedings, reminded the court that the letter was dated November 13, 2013.

The counsel, who represented the accused persons, Mr. Tunde Akinrimisi, however told the court that he only got Obla’s letter seeking an adjournment just some moments before the court sitting.

He did not oppose the application for adjournment, but noted that the prosecution of the case ought to be paramount.

The Speaker, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and his aide are standing trial for money laundering at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Money Laundering: Lagos Speaker Back To Court Tomorrow

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.

The Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji

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.

Lagos Speaker fails to stop money laundering trial against him

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.