EFCC closes case against Lagos Speaker, Ikuforiji

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jun 23rd, 2014
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adeyemi-ikuforiji-1-447x336The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday closed its case against the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, standing trial before a Federal High Court, Lagos for allegedly laundering N600 million.

The matter was initially adjourned for the third prosecution witness to testify, but the prosecutor, Godwin Obla (SAN), informed the court of EFCC’s readiness to close its case.

“My lord, having reviewed our case so far against the accused persons, we are of the opinion to rest our case and leave the court to do the rest,” Obla said.

But lead defence counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) jokingly chided Obla for failing to inform him of the development.

Trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, upon the agreement of counsel in the matter, adjourned the matter to July 7, 2014 for hearing of the no case submission of the defence.

In all, the EFCC presented two witnesses against the Speaker and his aide. They are Adebayo Adeniyi, an official of the agency and Adewale Olatunji, former Permanent Secretary and Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Adeniyi, had during his testimony, detailed how the defendants allegedly laundered millions of naira.

For instance, the witness told the court how the defendants allegedly collected N13.5 million for honorarium, N4.5 million for renovation of the Speaker’s residence, and N1.5 million for the Speaker’s Guest House every month for six consecutive months.

Adeniyi further recounted series of other transactions, which he said the Speaker and his aide carried out by receiving money from the Lagos State House of Assembly without passing through a financial institution.

On his part, Olatunji, told the court that conferences attended by members of the assembly were based on approval.

He said as clerk of the assembly, he was in charge of its administrative activities, and to some extent, its finance, adding that he also employed the second accused as aide to Ikuforiji.

The witness told the court that as soon as funds were received from the state government, the Commissioner for Finance embarks on a budget analysis, and issues guidelines for its implementation.

He said the Commissioner for Economic Planning also moderates the budget, adding that the law stipulates that one twelfth of the total over head running cost, be issued to the Assembly on a monthly basis.

According to Olatunji, Lagos Assembly maintained three bank accounts with Skye Bank, Wema Bank, and Equitorial Trust Bank and that cheques were issued in the name of the clerk of the house, who confirmed same.

The witness told the court that funds allocated to the Assembly were expended in accordance with the budget, adding that staff payments were made in cash while those to corporate entities were paid in cheques.

During cross examination by defence Counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the witness told the court that the office of the Speaker of the Assembly was a corporate entity, and that all payments approved for the House, were based on requisitions.

The witness also affirmed that the records and documentation of the Assembly in relation to its transactions, were tidy and devoid of any illegality, since the funds were approved for official assignments.

He, however, told the court that he was unaware if the EFCC experienced any difficulty in obtaining the financial records from the Assembly.

On the petition against Ikuforiji by one Eleya Olootu, the witness told the court that he was only informed of the petition by the EFCC, but never saw a copy during his visit to the commission.

The witness also admitted before the court that all seminars, conferences, or retreats, attended by members, were based on approvals.

He said members were given estacodes from the bank, for such events, in order to facilitate their assignments, adding that evidence of attendance of such meetings were also exhibited by the members on return.

Olatunji said he was not aware of any conspiracy on the part of the accused to divert funds for illegality, noting that the services of auditors were employed from the office of the Auditor General, to audit the Assembly’s account.

He said he was not aware if any query was raised with respect to the account, adding that the assembly also had its own accounting law which was promulgated in 2001.

Under cross examination by the second Defence Counsel, Tunde Akinrimisi, the witness told the court that the composition of the Assembly was 40 members including the speaker.

When asked about the limit of funds which could be generated by the assembly, the witness declined answers on the ground that he was not competent to provide answers meant for the Accountant General.

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