Judge’s Absence Stalls Ex-Lagos Speaker, Ikuforiji’s Trial

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The trial of a former speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, over alleged money laundering was on Monday, stalled because Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court did not sit.
The case which was first fixed for continuation of trial on November 15, could not proceed at the last adjourned date as the court did not sit and it was, consequently, fixed for November 20.
On Monday, the case also could not proceed as the court did not sit following a letter by defence counsel, seeking an adjournment of the case to a more convenient date.
A new date is, however, yet to be communicated to parties.
Justice Liman, who presides over the case, had been transferred out of the Lagos division but still comes from his division to preside over the case following a fiat.
Ikuforiji is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.
They are being tried before on a 54-count bordering on alleged N338.8 million money laundering.
They had each pleaded not guilty and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC had closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution.
Prosecution called a total of two witnesses in support of its case.
Meanwhile, Justice Liman was later transferred out of the Lagos division and the case suffered several set backs.
On May 4, (this year) defence counsel Mr Dele Adesina SAN, opened the case for the defence and had began calling witnesses.
Defence called three witnesses, including the first defendant (Ikuforiji).
Among others, Ikuforiji had testified how he was being prosecuted on a faceless petition.
He had told the court that the instant case arose from a petition written by an unknown person, alleging that he had stolen about N7 billion from the Lagos House of Assembly.
The matter was consequently, fixed for adoption of written addresses
The case will now continue on the next adjourned date.
The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-counts charge bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.
The defendants were, however, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.
Buba had granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sun
On Sept. 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no case submission of the defendants.
Buba had 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 the 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 had 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.




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