Court Fixes Nov 14 For Adoption Of Final Address In Ikuforiji’s Trial

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed November 14, for the adoption of final written addresses in the trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, on allegations of laundering over N338.8m.

Justice Mohammed Liman adjourned for the adoption of written addresses after the defendant’s counsel tendered the Certified True Copies (CTCs) of the court proceedings of 2014 before the previous trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, signalling the close of its defence….[Continue Reading]

The counsel to the defendant, Dele Adesina, SAN, also recalled a witness, the former chief accountant of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Adewale Olatunji, through whom he tendered the CTCs of the 2014 proceedings.

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The court also admitted in evidence Olatunji’s statement, which he made during interrogation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Olatunji, who was subpoenaed by the court, had earlier testified as the second prosecution witness in the trial.

In March 2021, when he testified, Olatunji, then aged 70, had described himself as a retiree and former clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly.

He recalled receiving two letters from the EFCC. The first concerned the agency’s intention to investigate the Assembly’s financial dealings. The second was an invitation to him to appear before the Commission in relation to the investigation.

“When they came, I directed staff of the house to cooperate with them and give them what they required,” Olatunji said, adding that he later honoured the invitation at the EFCC’s Abuja headquarters.

The witness confirmed he was aware that the EFCC officials demanded and were given documents.

“The documents were majorly cash registers,” he had said.

The witness had also testified that the Speaker had the power to approve all expenditures above N500,000.

When the former Speaker took to the witness box at the last adjourned date of May 4, 2023, he told the court that his trial was politically motivated.

He said, “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. But, politicians for what we are when you step on somebody’s toes, you’re bound to have many enemies.

“It is likely that I have a lot of enemies, and that is why we have this petition by an unknown writer. Who even knows if the petition is from an individual and not from the EFCC itself.”

Ikuforiji also said that as a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if he had indeed committed such an infraction, the EFCC would not be the first to charge him, as members of the House would have dealt with him, by impeaching him first, before handing him over to the law enforcement agency.

Denying the allegations of money laundering levelled against him, Ikuforiji said as the head of the legislative arm of government, his role in any financial transaction was to give final approval to memos put before him, after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department had done their work on it.

“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,” he said.

When asked if the second defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, who was his personal assistant, did collect cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji said, “Atoyebi collected money or cash for the Office of the Speaker, which at that time had over 100 staff, and definitely not for the Speaker in person.”

The EFCC had arraigned Ikuforiji alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on a 54-count charge bordering on the offence.

Both of them had pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman 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 closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly. The prosecution called only two witnesses in support of its case.

The case was then adjourned for the defence to open its case and begin its defence.

However, Justice Liman was later transferred out of the Lagos Division and is now presiding over the case by fiat.

According to the charge, EFCC alleged that 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 contended that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.

According to the EFCC, the offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011….[Continue Reading]

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