Adeyemi Ikuforiji, former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly (in white) in Court Photo: ThisDay

Trial of ex-Lagos Speaker, aide resumes in alleged N338.8m money laundering

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

The re-trial of Adeyemi Ikuforiji, a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, in the alleged laundering of N338.8 million of taxpayers’ money continued Wednesday, November 25, at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

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

It was learnt Adeniyi had informed 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.

The registers indicated that the second defendant, Atoyebi, collected money several times, above the financial threshold allowed by Nigeria’s Money Laundering Act.

Under cross-examination by Dele Adesina, defence counsel, 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.

Consequently, Justice Mohammed Liman, at the instance of Adesina adjourned until December 9, 2020, 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.

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

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

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.

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

The anti-graft agency 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, ThisDay report said.

According to report, the anti-graft agency stated 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.

The trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents, according to the EFCC.

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, report said.

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