17th March, 2022
By Sandra Umeh
The money laundering trial of a former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, was on Thursday stalled due to its non-appearance in the cause list.
Ikuforiji is facing a N338.8 million money laundering charge before a Federal High Court in Lagos State.
The former speaker is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on 54 counts.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman and were allowed to continue on earlier bail granted them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
On Thursday, although EFCC counsel, Mr Ekene Ihenacho, was in court, the case was not on the cause list for the day.
A new trial date will be communicated to parties in the suit, according to a source in the court.
On the last adjourned date on March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling its second witness, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, Justice Liman, who has been presiding over the trial, was in 2021 transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction, but he is still handling the case 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.
They were re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba following a re-assignment of the case.
Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sum.
On Sept. 26, 2014, Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charge, after upholding a no-case submission by them.
Buba held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), challenged the judgment in a Notice of Appeal dated Sept. 30, 2014.
EFCC 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were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.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 commission 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 governments.
The commission also submitted that the trial judge erred by holding that testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the defendants.
In its judgement in November 2016, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal upheld EFCC’s submissions and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.
Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the decision.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and ordered that the case should be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.
According to the EFCC, the defendants accepted 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.
It equally alleged that Ikuforiji used his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.
The commission said that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011, in contravention of the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.