The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, has been discharged and acquitted by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court of alleged laundering of about N600m.
Ikuforiji’s aide, Oyebode Atoyebi was equally discharged of the same alleged crime.
The two were arraigned before the Federal High Court on June 24, 2013 on 56 counts bordering on conspiracy.
The EFCC had alleged that Ikuforiji and Atoyebi laundered various sums accumulating to about N600m between April 2010 and July 2011.
The sums, which belonged to the Lagos State House of Assembly, were alleged to have been accessed by the duo without going through any financial institution.
According to the EFCC the offences contravened section 18(a) of the Money Laundering Act, 2004.
They had pleaded not guilty and allowed bail in the sum of N1bn each with two sureties in the sum of N500m each.
While delivering ruling in the no-case application submitted by the two accused persons, the trial judge, Buba, held that the prosecution failed to prove the allegation of money laundering preferred against them.
The judge noted that, “In criminal trial, the prosecution has the duty to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt; this duty has, first, to be discharged by the prosecution by making, at least, a prima facie case. If it fails to establish such a case, the accused is entitled to be discharged without being called upon to enter their defence. There is no corresponding duty on the accused to prove their innocence.”
The judge noted that though the prosecution had earlier listed seven witnesses, it ended up calling two.
Buba said it was not difficult for the court to align with the argument of the first defendant’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that “the trial had been based on trial and error, having been triggered off by a petition from one Comrade Eleya Olotu, a petition which has been established to be baseless and wicked; if at all the petitioner existed at all, he has disappeared into thin air.”
The judge recalled that the first prosecution witness, an investigator with the EFCC, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo had admitted under cross-examination that he did not know much about the case as he had not participated fully in the investigation.
The court also noted that Adebayo had said that the focus of his investigation was not on whether the monies allegedly laundered by the accused persons were properly requested, duly approved or for specific official purposes.
Adebayo had told the court that his investigation centred on the allegation that the accused persons transacted in cash above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act, without going through financial institutions.
The judge also noted that the second prosecution witness, a Permanent Secretary and Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adewale Olatunji, had stated that all the monies in question were properly requested and duly approved by the Lagos State Governor for specific official purposes.
Adewale had added that such monies were first withdrawn from three bank accounts of the House with Wema Bank, Equitorial Trust Bank and Skye Bank.
The judge also noted that Olatunji, under Cross-examination, had admitted that the accused persons had committed no offence to have warranted being prosecuted.
Buba noted, “The prosecution called two witnesses and both of them did not give evidence in support of the charge before the court or at variance with the innocence of the accused persons. The court is duty bound, at the close of the case of the prosecution, to decline on calling on the accused persons to enter their defence.”
The court said it aligned with Olanipekun’s submission that “the trial of the defendants was a joke taken too far.”
While saying that the prosecution misapplied the money laundering law, the judge said, “There was no doubt that the prosecution was in difficulty as to which offence to charge against which law.”
The court said that the money laundering charges were supposed to have been aborted or withdrawn by the prosecution but “having failed to do the needful, the court is at liberty to uphold the no-case submission and discharge the accused.”
Finally the court held, “It is the considered opinion of this court that the prosecution has not made out a prima facie case against the accused.
“The court upholds the no-case submission, and consequently, the first and second accused being and are hereby discharged.
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