By Sandra Umeh
Lagos, June 2, 2023A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned until June 22, the money laundering trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.
The case which was fixed for continuation of trial on June 1 and 2 has now been adjourned by the court until June 22.
Ikuforiji is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.
They are being tried before Justice Mohammed Liman, on a 54 counts charge bordering on the alleged offence.
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 closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly
Prosecution called a total of two witnesses in support of its case.
The case was then adjourned for the defence to open its case and begin its defence.
On May 4, defence counsel Mr Dele Adesina had opened the case of the defence and had began calling witnesses.
The Defence called three witnesses including the first defendant (Ikuforiji) on the last adjourned date
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 state House of Assembly.
The court had however, adjourned the case to June 1 and 2, to take addresses on the admissibility of a documentary evidence tendered from the bar by the defence counsel.
Trial has now again being adjourned untill June 22
The News Agency of Nigeria (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 each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
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.
Following the decision of the Appeal Court, the defendants headed for the Supreme Court, seeking to upturn the ruling of the Appellate court.
Again, in its verdict, the apex court 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.
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 said that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravenes the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.