5th May, 2023
A former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji has told Justice Muhammad Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, that the N388.8m fraud trial against him was ‘politically motivated.’
The former speaker noted that if he had indeed committed the crime, the case will not first get to EFCC as members of the House would have dealt with him.
Ikuforiji, alongside his former aide, Oyebode Alade, is facing trial on a 54-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N338.8 million.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Rt. Honorable Adeyemi Sabit Ikuforiji, and Oyebode Alade Atoyebi, sometime between April 2010 and July 2011 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, conspired among yourselves to do an illegal act to wit: accepting various cash payments amounting in aggregate to the sum of N338, 801, 442 (Three Hundred and Thirty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred and One Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Naira only) 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.
At the resumed sitting today, Ikuforiji, through his counsel, Dele Adesina, SAN, described the charge against him as “politically motivated.”
He said the initial allegations made against him by the prosecution were “fraud and misappropriation of funds.”
He said the prosecution, however, “later turned it to money laundering”, adding that “It is a pity that I am standing trial today based on a faceless petition that has no name or address of the writer, who alleged that I committed a fraud or misappropriated the sum of over N7 billion.”
“As a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if I had, indeed, committed such an infraction, my case would not first get to the EFCC for trial, as members of the House would have dealt with me, by first impeaching me and handing me over to the law enforcement agency.
“I don’t handle cash, or disbursement of funds; it is the duty of the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department to do that.”
When asked if the second defendant, Atoyebi, collected any cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji said: “Atoyebi collected money for the Office of the Speaker, where there were over 100 staff, and definitely not for me.”
In his testimony, the first defense witness, a retiree and former Deputy Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Ibisola Olawoyin Ogayemi, admitted knowing the defendants and that the Chief Accounting Officer of the House is the Clerk of the House.
Asked to talk about the modalities for financial transactions in the House, Ogayemi said that, after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department had done the paper works, “they would send it to the Speaker for approval; and after his consent, the documents would be returned to them.”
According to him, “The Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department would then raise invoices and cheques.
“Subsequently, the bank would bring the cash to the Finance Department for disbursement in the presence of the bank’s officials and staff of the Department to the beneficiaries.”
Also, the second defence witness, Kayode Motunrayo, a former Manager, First Bank, Agodi Branch, Ibadan, Oyo State, corroborated Ogayemi’s evidence, saying, “ When the bank received a cheque for payment from any government institution or agency, including the Oyo State House of Assembly, the bank would take the money down to the Finance Department of that Agency and carry out the disbursement in conjunction with the officials of the Finance department.”
The case was adjourned till June 1 and 2, 2023 for continuation of trial.