Judge’s absence stalls Ikuforiji’s corruption trial

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday fixed May 2 for the trial of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji who is standing trial alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on an amended 56-count money laundering charge.

The accused are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The case, which was slated for continuation of trial, could not go on due to the absence of the trial judge, Ibrahim Buba.

Parties were therefore asked to come back to court on May 2. The accused were re-arraigned on June 24, 2013, on the amended charge.

They had both pleaded not guilty to the charge, and were granted bail in the sum of N1 billion with two sureties in the sum of N500 million each.

The prosecutor, Godwin Obla, opened the case for the prosecution on November 21, 2013, by calling on his first witness, Adebayo Adeniyi, a Principal Detective Superintendent.

On the last adjourned date on March 18, Adeniyi continued his testimony before the court.

Led in evidence by the prosecutor, the witness had told the court that the schedule of his duty was to investigate the threshold of money utilised by the Lagos Assembly

He had said that all the money approved by the accused were above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act.

Under cross-examination by defence Counsel, Wole Olanipekun, the witness told the court that the accused did not personally sign any of the cheques for the withdrawal of the sums.

He had said that the signatories to the account of the Lagos Assembly at Wema Bank and Equitorial Trust Bank were the permanent secretary, the clerk of the house and the director of finance of the assembly.

According to the witness, investigations revealed that cash was normally withdrawn by the Permanent Secretary in his name on behalf of the Assembly.

He said that the monies were disbursed to members of the house and their officials.

The witness had said that Ikuforiji approved the collection of several sums of money on his behalf by his aide (Atoyebi) ranging from N1 million to about N15 million.

The accused were charged for alleged conspiracy between April 2010 and July 2011, to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments of about N274 million from the assembly without going through a financial institution.

It was also alleged that Ikuforiji used his position to misappropriate about N500 million of the Lagos Assembly’s funds.

The offences were said to have contravened the provisions of section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

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