Court reserves judgment of ex-Lagos speaker Ikuforiji’s N338.8 million fraud case until June 3

On Friday, the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court reserved judgment until June 3 in the money laundering charge against Adeyemi Ikuforiji, a former speaker of the state House of Assembly.

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

Mr The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mr Ikuforiji alongside his former personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.

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

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However, they pleaded not guilty before Mr Liman, who allowed them to continue on bail granted to 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 Dele Adesina (SAN) opened defence.

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

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

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on charges bordering on fund misappropriation and money laundering.

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

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

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

On September 26, 2014, Mr Buba discharged Mr Ikuforiji and his aide after upholding their no-case submissions. He held that EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

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

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were incompetent because they were filed under section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

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 a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the Court of Appeal decision, 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 Court of Appeal’s decision and ordered that the case 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 totalling N338.8 million from the Lagos State House of Assembly.

It accused Mr 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.

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