The Federal High Court in Lagos State on Monday adjourned the trial of former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforija, over alleged money laundering worth N338.8 million.
The case, which was previously scheduled to continue on November 15, could not proceed because Judge Mohammed Liman, who presided over the case by decree, was not sitting.
Justice Liman was transferred from the Lagos division but following the decree, he comes from his division to preside over the case.
A new date of November 20 has been set for the case.
Ikuforiji is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission along with his former personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.
They are being tried on 54 counts bordering on alleged money laundering worth N338.8 million.
Both pleaded not guilty and were allowed to continue their proceedings on bail granted to them in 2012, when they were first arraigned.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed the case after calling a second prosecution witness.
The prosecution called a total of two witnesses to support its case.
Meanwhile, Judge Liman was later transferred from the Lagos division and the case faced several setbacks.
On May 4, Dele Adesina’s defense lawyer, SAN, opened the defense case and began calling witnesses.
The defense called three witnesses, including the first defendant (Ikuforiji). Among other things, Mr. Ikuforiji testified about criminal proceedings being brought against him based on an anonymous petition.
He told the court that the present case stems from a petition written by an unknown person accusing him of stealing about N7 billion from the Lagos State House of Assembly. It was therefore decided to adopt the issue of written speeches. The case will be continued on November 20.
The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on 20 counts bordering on embezzlement and money laundering. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and were released on bail.
However, the accused were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba on reassignment of the case.
Mr. Buba granted them bail in the amount of USD 500 million each with sun sureties
On September 26, 2014, Judge Buba acquitted Ikuforiji and his assistant after upholding the defendants’ position of denial. Mr. Buba maintained that the EFCC failed to produce prima facie evidence against them.
Dissatisfied with the EFCC ruling, through her lawyer Godwin Obel, SAN, she filed a Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014, challenging the trial court’s decision.
Mr. Obla argued that the trial court erred in law when it found that the calculations were incompetent because they were submitted under section 1(a). (a) the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004, as repealed by the 2011 Act.
The EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law by holding that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 and 2011 only applied to individuals and corporate bodies other than the government.
The commission also found that the trial judge erred in law in finding and concluded that the testimony of prosecution witnesses established defendants’ innocence.
In its judgment, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal in November 2016 agreed with the prosecution and ordered a new trial of the accused before a different judge.
After the Court of Appeal’s judgment, the defendants brought the case to the Supreme Court, demanding the annulment of the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
Again, in its judgment, the appellate court also upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back for retrial by the Chief Judge of the Federal Supreme Court for transfer to another judge.
According to the plea, the EFCC alleged that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold under the Money Laundering Act, without the intermediation of a financial institution.
The commission charged the defendants with conspiracy to commit the illegal act of accepting cash payments totaling N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without the intermediary of a financial institution.
Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.
The EFCC found that the accused committed the offenses between April 2010 and July 2011.
According to the EFCC, this offense is contrary to the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16 (1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2004 and 2011.