Justice Mohammed Liman of a lagos Federal High Court, today, fixed March 24 for a former Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Adeyemi Sabit Ikuforiji, to open his defence in an alleged N673 million money laundering trial.
Justice Liman fixed the date after the prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) closed its case upon the testimony of its second and final witness, Adewale Taiwo Olatunji.
Ikuforiji is standing trial alongside his former Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on 54 counts bordering on the alleged offences.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges, when they were rearraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman last December 11, and they were allowed to continue on a N500 million bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
Liman’s ruling followed an application by Ikuforiji’s counsel, Mr Dele Adesina (SAN), who asked for a short date to either open defence or file a no-case submission.
The judge granted his prayer for the former.
At today’s proceedings, the EFCC’s second and last witness, a 70-year-old, Olatunji, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr Ekene Ihenacho, identified himself as a retiree and former Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly (HoA).
In his testimony, the witness recalled receiving two letters from the EFCC; the first concerned the agency’s intention to investigate the HoA’s financial dealings. And the second was an invitation for him to appear before the agency relation to the investigation.
“When they came, I directed staff of House to cooperate with them and give them what they required, and i later honoured the invitation at the EFCC’s Abuja headquarters”, he said.
The witness confirmed that he was aware that the EFCC officials demanded for and were given documents.
“The documents were majorly cash registers,” he said.
Upon being shown one of the documents – which were in the courts possession as exhibits – the witness Identified same as a certified true copy of a cash register forwarded to EFCC by the HoA.
“Cash registers were majorly to record cash transactions,” Olatunji told the judge.
Responding to a question by Iheanacho, he confirmed that in his time, the HoA had five accounts, but could not recall all of them.
“It was a long time ago. We had WEMA Bank, Equitorial Trust Bank, Skye Bank, which had two accounts,” Olatunji said, adding that he was not aware if any of the banks had branches within the HoA complex in Alausa.
Iheanacho: “Who approved payments in the exhibits?
Olatunji: “The Speaker had power to approve. Speaker approved all expenditures above N50,000. The Honourable Adeyemi Ikuforiji was the Speaker at the time”.
During cross examination by Adesina (SAN), the witness summarised his testimony.
Adesina: “All you’ve said concerning the first defendant is that he was the Speaker and approving authority.
Adesina: “The banks you mentioned, did they have branches within Alausa?
Witness: “I wouldn’t know.
Adesina: “The House of Assembly and state secretariat are in same vicinity of Alausa”? Witness: “Yes”.
Adesina: “You made a statement in respect of this matter with the EFCC?
Upon conclusion of the cross-examination, Adesina (SAN), informed the court of his intention to file no case submission or his clients, to defend themselves at the next adjourned date.
Consequently, Justice Liman adjourned till March 24, for the defendants to open their defence against the allegations.
It would be recall that both Ikoforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode, were discharged and acquitted by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the same Court, in 2015, after upholding their no case submission.
But Justice Buba’s decision was reversed by the Supreme Court, following which Ikuforiji and Atoyebi were last December 11 re-arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Liman.
In the new charge dated June 4, 2013, the EFCC filed 56-counts against the former speaker and his aide.
It alleges that Ikuforiji and Atoyebi between April 2010 and August 2011 conspired to commit an illegal act, to wit, accepting various cash payments amounting to the sum of N673m from the Lagos State House of Assembly without going through a financial institution, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.