Legal Nigeria

Trial of Adeyemi Ikuforiji suffers another adjournment

By Sandra Umeh/Lagos

Adeyemi Ikuforiji: trial adjourned again

The trial of Adeyemi Ikuforiji, former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, for money laundering, has been adjourned again.

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday, adjourned the case till 19 May.

Ikuforiji is facing trial for an alleged N338.8 million money laundering charge.

He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.

The EFCC filed a 54 count charge.

Both Ikuforiji and Atoyebi pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman.

Liman allowed the accused to continue on an earlier bail granted them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

On 17 March, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the house.

The case which was scheduled for Wednesday for the defence to open its case, could not proceed as defence counsel Mr Dele Adesina, SAN, wrote a letter requesting an adjournment.

Adesina said he would be attending the burial of a senior lawyer, Mr Olusegun Odubela.

Trial will now resume on May 19.

At the last adjourned date, Olatunji concluded his testimony after he was led in evidence in chief by the prosecution.

He was also cross examined by the defence counsel.

The defendants were first arraigned on 1 March 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation of funds and money laundering.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge 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 sun

On Sept. 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charge, after upholding a no case submission of the defendants.

Buba 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 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were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.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 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 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.