The trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, on allegations of laundering over N338.8 million has resumed at the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi.
Ikuforiji, who took the witness box today to testify in a “no case submission” application he made before the court, told Justice Mohammed Liman that the charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was politically motivated.
While denying the money laundering allegation levelled against him by the Commission, Ikuforiji said the initial allegations made against him by EFCC were for fraud and misappropriation of funds, which the Commission later turned to money laundering.
“It is a pity that I am standing trial today based on a faceless petition, that has no name or address of the writer, who alleged that I committed fraud or misappropriated the sum of over N7 billion,” he stated.
Ikuforiji said that as a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if he had indeed committed such an infraction, his case will not first get to the EFCC for trial, as members of the House would have dealt with him, by first impeaching him before handing him over to the law enforcement agency.
Denying the allegation of money laundering, levelled against him, Ikuforiji said as the Head of the legislative arm of government, his role in any financial issue is to give final approval on àny memo put before him after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department have done their bit.
“I don’t handle cash or disbursement of funds, it is the duty of the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department to do that,” he stated.
When asked if the 2nd defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, who was his personal assistant, did collect cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji said, “Atoyebi collects money or cash for the Office of the Speaker, which at that time had over 100 staff, and definitely not for him in person. Atoyebi can collect money for the running of the office of the Speaker and allowances of other staff.”
On the status of the employment of the 2nd Defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, the former Speaker said Atoyebi being a staff of Lagos State was seconded to the office of the Speaker.
Also, giving evidence in the matter, a retiree, who was a former deputy Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Ibisola Olawoyin Ogayemi admitted that he knew the defendants.
Ogayemi testified that the Chief Accounting Officer of the House, is the Clerk of the House.
On the modalities for financial transactions in the House, the witness said that after the office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department has done the paperwork, they then send the same to the Speaker for approval, and after his consent, the documents will be returned back to them.
He added that on the return of the documents, the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department will raise invoices and cheques, and subsequently, the bank will bring the cash to the finance department for disbursement to the beneficiaries, all in the presence of bank officials and staff of the department.
Another witness, Mr. Kayode Motunrayo, a former banker from First Bank of Nigeria, corroborated Ogayemi’s evidence.
Motunrayo told the court that he retired as the branch manager of First Bank Agodi, Ibadan.
He said that when the bank receives a cheque for payment from any government institution or agency, including the Oyo State House of Assembly, the bank will take the money down to the finance department of that Agency and carry out the disbursement in conjunction with the officials of the finance department.
He added that all banks follow standard procedures.
After listening to the testimonies, the court adjourned the case till June 1 and 2 for continuation of trial.
It would be recalled that the EFCC had arraigned Ikuforiji alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi on a 54-count charge bordering on the offence.
Both of them had pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly. The prosecution called only two witnesses in support of its case.
The case was then adjourned for the defence to open its case and begin its defence.
However, Justice Liman was later transferred out of the Lagos Division and is now presiding over the case by fiat.
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.
OIkuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.
The EFCC contended that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.
According to the EFCC, the offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.