Money Laundering: Ikuforiji Knows Fate 26 Sept.
Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his personal assistant Oyebode Atoyebi standing trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, on money laundering related offences, will know their fate on 26 September as the court has fixed that day for ruling on whether they have a case to answer or not.
When the case was mentioned Friday morning, the presiding Judge Ibrahim Buba told the two parties that the ruling of the court was not ready.
After that pronouncement, there was an argument as to whether the ruling should be delivered during the vacation as today is the last day of sitting of the court before going on two months vacation.
While Chief Wole Olanipekun, Messrs Tunde Akinrimisi and Abiodun Onidare appearing for the Ikuforiji and his aide agreed that the ruling can be delivered during the vacation since Justice Buba is one of the judges that will be sitting during vacation, Mr Edward Ope representing the prosecutor objected.
In the defence of the two accused persons, Olanipekun (SAN) leading two other senior lawyers Abiodun Onidare, Tunde Akinrimisi and nine other lawyers last Monday entered a no case submission on behalf of the accused persons on the following grounds:
That there was no essential evidence to prove the alleged offence of money laundering; that the speaker was being falsely charged for performing his official function and; that this is the first of its kind in the country where a speaker would be prosecuted in respect of official funds officially released after due requisition, approval and acceptance.
Olanipekun further contended that it was impossible for official funds for official assignment to be laundered as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
He further argued that Sections 2,3,4 and 5 of the Lagos State House of Assembly Self Accounting Law stipulate how the official funds are to be expended, adding that all the ledgers tendered by the prosecution were covered by the definition section of the Money Laundering Act to the effect that the ledgers qualified as financial instruments.
He said: “The office of the Speaker is not a private office but a public office created by Section 92 of the Constitution. There is no count in the charge sheet that says the Speaker diverted the funds to his personal account or for personal use. Therefore, the trial amounts to witch-hunting, because the prosecution has not been able to substantiate the allegation of money laundering.”
Consequently, he urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused persons.
Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), while opposing the application, urged the court to reject all the submissions of the defence counsel and dismiss the application and make the accused persons to present their defence if any.
He hinged his submission on the ground that Section 1 of the Money Laundering Act clearly prevents anyone, including corporate bodies, from accepting or making cash payments above a threshold.
He further stated that Section 15 (1) (d) of Money Laundering Act of 2004 and 16 (1) (d) of 2011 made it a criminal offence for anybody or corporate body to make or accept cash payment above the threshold.
According to him, that was the basic charge against the accused persons. He made reference to the cash book tendered in exhibit before the court to buttress his argument, adding that the immunity of the Speaker covered the deeds of the Speaker only in respect of discussions on the floor of the House, and not the case at hand.