Trial Of Ex-Lagos Speaker Ikuforiji Stalled

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday adjourned until March 18, continuation of trial of a former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.

Ikuforiji is currently standing trial for N338.8 million money laundering.

He is facing trial alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi,  on 54 counts.

They, however, pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman, and were allowed to continue on bail earlier  granted them.

The trial of the defendants, which was scheduled to resume on Wednesday, could not proceed due to  unavailability of exhibits.

The court had called counsel for both  prosecution and defence into chambers.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) later gathered from the counsel that exhibits to be used in the trial were unavailable, as the case had gone on appeal even to the Supreme Court.

Prosecution said that it had written to the Supreme Court on the exhibits and was still awaiting its response.

NAN reports that 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  pleaded not guilty to all the counts and were granted bail.

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 sum.

On Sept. 26, 2014, Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no-case submission by 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 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were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.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  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 the decision of the Appeal Court, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the Court of Appellate.

In its verdict, the apex court also 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 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 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 offences, according to the EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.


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