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.