Alleged N338.8m fraud: Court reserves judgment on ex-Lagos Assembly Speaker

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Adeyemi Ikuforiji, former Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly.

By Sandra Umeh

A federal high court in Lagos has reserved judgment until June 3 in a N338.8m money laundering charge against former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.

Justice Mohammed Liman gave the date after prosecution and defence counsel adopted their written addresses during a virtual court hearing (Zoom).

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Ikuforiji is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.

They are facing a 54-count charge bordering on money laundering amounting to N338.8 million.

They, however, pleaded not guilty before Liman, who allowed them to continue on bail granted  them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

On March 17, 2021,  EFCC closed its case after calling two witnesses.

On May 4, 2023, defence counsel, Mr Dele Adesina (SAN), opened  defence.

He called three witnesses, including the Ikuforiji, who testified that  he was being prosecuted on a faceless petition.

Ikuforiji had told the court that the case arose from a petition written by an unknown person, alleging that he stole about N7 billion from Lagos House of Assembly.

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

They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail by Okeke.

The defendants were later re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following re-assignment of the case.

Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each, with two sureties in like sum.

On Sept. 26, 2014, Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide after upholding their no-case submissions.

Buba had held that EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, EFCC through its counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), filed an appeal dated Sept. 30, 2014.

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were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

He further argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2004 and 2011 only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than government.

He also submitted that the trial court erred in law when it concluded that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported innocence of the defendants.

In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the  Court of Appeal, in November 2016, upheld EFCC’s submissions and ordered fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the decision of the  Court of Appeal, the defendants headed for the Supreme Court, seeking to upturn the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

In its verdict, the apex court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and ordered that the case should be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge.

According to EFCC, the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act.

The commission also accused the defendants of conspiring to illegally  accept cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from Lagos State House of Assembly.

It accused Ikuforiji of using his position as the Speaker to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the offences from April 2010 to July 2011.

The alleged  offences contravene Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act of 2004 and 2011. (NAN)

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