3rd May, 2023
By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos adjourned until Thursday and Friday for continuation in the trial of former speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.
Ikuforiji is charged alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 54-count charge bordering on an alleged N338.8 million money laundering charge.
They had each pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman, and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
At the last adjourned date of March 15, the prosecutor, Mr Ekene Iheanacho complained of the slow pace of trial in the case, following a letter of adjournment by the defence.
Iheanacho argued that though there was a letter for adjournment by the defence counsel, the defendants ought to be present in court.
He made an oral application for the bail of the defendants to be revoked.
The court however in its wisdom, ordered the defendants to be present in court on the next adjourned date of May 3 and 4 which it now changed to May 4 and May 5.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly.
The prosecutor called two witnesses in support of its case which was then adjourned for the opening of case and beginning of defence.
In the process, Justice Liman was transferred out of the Lagos division, but now presiding over 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 had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.
They were later 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, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no case submission of the defendants.
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), filed a Notice of Appeal dated Sept. 30, 2014 challenging the decision of the trial court.
Obla had 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 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 also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.
In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court in November 2016, agreed with the prosecution and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.
Following this decision, the defendants headed for the Supreme Court, seeking to upturn the ruling of the Appellate Court.
Again, the apex court in its verdict also 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.
The EFCC had alleged in the charge that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.
It accused the defendants of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly, without going through a financial institution.
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.
The offence, according to the EFCC, contravenes the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.