Sunday, March 26, 2023

Money Laundering: EFCC tells court to revoke ex-Lagos Speaker Ikuforiji’s bail

Mr Ikuforiji and his former personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, are facing a 54-count charge before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

• March 15, 2023
Adeyemi Ikuforiji
Adeyemi Ikuforiji

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday sought revocation of bail granted to a former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, facing N338.8 million money laundering charges.

Mr Ikuforiji and his former personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, are facing a 54-count charge before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

They had pleaded not guilty on re-arraignment before Justice Mohammed Liman, who  allowed them to continue on bail granted them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

When the case came up for continuation of trial on Wednesday, EFCC counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, expressed dissatisfaction that a letter for adjournment of the case was before the court.

He said that the trial had been slow and noted that the letter was written by defence counsel on behalf of the defendants.

Mr Iheanacho argued that the defendants had no reason to be absent from court.

The prosecution counsel, consequently, made an oral application for a bench warrant to be issued against the defendants, adding that their bail should be revoked.

In a ruling, the judge directed the defendants to be present for trial on the next date, May 3.

He held that failure of the defendants to appear for trial on the next adjourned date might compel the court to revoke their bail and issue a bench warrant for their arrest.

On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling its second witness, Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly.

The case was then adjourned to enable the defence to open its case.

However, Mr Liman was transferred out of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

However, he is presiding over the case now on a fiat.

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

They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.

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

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

On September 26, 2014, Mr Buba discharged Mr Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no-case submission by them.

Mr Buba had held that EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, EFCC through its counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal.

The commission 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.

EFCC further argued that the lower court erred  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 government.

The commission also submitted that the trial judge erred in law  by upholding and concluding that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.

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

Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, the defendants headed for the Supreme Court which, however, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal.

EFCC charged the defendants with accepting cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.

The commission also accused the defendants of conspiring to accept cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.

Mr Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.

The EFCC said that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011, in  contravention of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.


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