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Court adjourns Lagos Speaker trial

08 July 2014, 11:47

Lagos - The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday fixed July 11 to rule on a no-case submission by the Speaker, Lagos House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, charged with money laundering.

Ikuforiji is being prosecuted alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 56-count charge.

Justice Ibrahim Buba reserved the ruling after Defence Counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), made the submission on behalf of Ikuforiji.

Olanipekun argued that the prosecution had not in any way made out a case against the accused to require him to open his defence.

He argued that the office of a speaker of a state House of Assembly was constitutionally created, adding that Ikuforiji, the first accused, was sovereign.

Olanipekun said that the charge against the accused largely dwelt on transactions with funds above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act (MLA).

He argued that the accused had not been involved in any transaction not within the contemplation of the Act.

According to him, all funds collected on his behalf were based on requisition notes which were approved and handed over to banks, before money was received.

The defence counsel said that, if the money collected on behalf of the assembly was actually drawn from a financial institution, then the issue of exceeding threshold would not exist.

He also said that the 2004 Act, under which the accused was charged, had since been repealed by a subsequent legislation of 2011.

According to him, the effect of repealing a statute was simply to discountenance it as though is never existed.

Olanipekun submitted that the failure of the prosecution to demonstrate elements of conspiracy between the accused persons showed the futility of the proceedings.

He urged the court to decide whether it was right, within the tenure of the MLA, for the accused to be charged with dealing with funds approved for official reasons.

Counsel to Atoyebi, Tunde Akinrimisi, aligned himself with the submissions of Olanipekun.

Akinrimisi submitted that the evidence of PW1 was inconclusive and based on mere hearsay, urging that the court should not act on unfounded allegations.

In his response, the Prosecutor, Godwin Obla (SAN), urged the court to disregard the submission and order the accused to open their defence.

The accused were re-arraigned before Buba on June 24, 2013, following the retirement of Justice Okechukwu Okeke, the former trial judge.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Buba granted them bail in the sum of N1 billion each with two sureties each in the sum of N500 million.

-  NAN

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