By Olawale Abdul-Fatah
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal office has re-arraigned former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, alongside his former aide, Oyebode Alade, over N338.8 million money laundering case.
They were re-arraigned on Wednesday on a 54-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering before Justice Mohammad Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Adeyemi Sabit Ikuforiji and Oyebode Alade Atoyebi, sometime between April 2010 and July 2011 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired among yourselves to do an illegal act to wit: accepting various cash payments amounting in the aggregate to the sum of N338, 801, 442 from the Lagos State House of Assembly without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them by the EFCC.
In view of their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, asked the court for a trial date and prayed the court to remand the defendants in the Correctional Centre, pending the outcome of the case.
Counsel to the defendants, Dele Adesina, prayed the court to allow the defendants to continue to enjoy the bail granted them by the former trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba.
However, in his response, the prosecution counsel, Iheanacho, told the court that the defence should have filed a fresh application for bail rather than relying on Justice Buba’s ruling.
Justice Liman, after listening to both parties, held that “the court will allow the defendants to continue to enjoy the bail granted to them by Justice Buba”.
The Judge also gave 14 days to the sureties to the defendants to appear before the court before a pronouncement could be made regarding the defendants’ prayers for bail.
Consequently, Justice Liman adjourned the case till February 9 and March 5, 2020 for the commencement of trial.
It would be recalled that the defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on funds misappropriation and money laundering, to which they pleaded not guilty.
The defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.
Justice Buba, on September 26, 2014, discharged the defendants of the charges, after upholding their no-case submission.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC filed a notice of appeal at the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, on September 30, 2014, challenging the decision of the trial court.
In its appeal, the Commission submitted that the trial Judge erred in law when he 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 Commission also argued 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 Commission further submitted that the trial judge erred in law by holding that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the defendants.
The Appellate Court, in its judgement sometime in November 2016, upheld the appeal and ordered a re-trial of the case before another judge.
In view of this, the defendants approached the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
The apex court, in its verdict, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for assignment.
>> Wilson Uwujaren
>> Head, Media & Publicity
>> 11 December, 2019