Commercial Law

Former NBA chairman, Ogunlana, others open defence in N21m stealing trial Jan 20

A Lagos State Secial Offences Court, sitting at Ikeja has slated January 20, 21, and 22, 2021 to hear the defense of the former Ikeja branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), and Mr Adesina Ogunlana and two others, in a N21 million fraud, and stealing charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

A social critic and human right activist, Ogunlana often criticizes government officials, and leaders of thought vehemently through his social media handles, particularly on Facebook. Such leaders he had criticized include President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Femi Falana SAN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and most recently Pastor Tunde Bakare.

He once escaped disciplinary action before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) some years back for making scathing remarks about the then Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ibitola Sotuminu. A case of professional misconduct was filed against him before the LPDC. He was however saved by the late GOK Ajayi SAN, who appeared for him before the committee.

However, Mr Ogunlana and another former chairman of the branch, Mr Yinka Farounbi, and a former treasurer Mrs Aderinola Kappo  were first arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada for allegedly defrauding the association of N20m on May 22, 2019.

Farounbi served as NBA Ikeja Branch chairman between 2014 and 2016 with Kappo serving as treasurer, while Ogunlana served as chairman from 2016 to 2018.

According to News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports, the trio are jointly charged with conspiracy to steal. Ogunlana is charged with 15 counts of stealing and one count of money laundering, while Farounbi and Kappo are jointly charged with 13 counts of stealing.

According to Mr S. O. Daji, the EFCC prosecutor, Farounbi and Kappo allegedly committed the offences from June 15, 2016 to April 9, 2018 in Lagos, while Ogunlana was alleged by the anti-graft commission to have committed the offences from July 18, 2016 to April 10, 2018.

“Farounbi and Kappo on 13 occasions without authorisation and in order to facilitate the stealing of N20m funds belonging to the Ikeja Branch of the NBA issued cheques to Ogunlana.

“The cheques were paid into Ogunlana’s personal bank account No. 2004528818 with First Bank Plc during his tenure as chairman of NBA Ikeja branch.

“He dishonestly converted the funds to his personal use,” Daji said.

Shedding light on the money laundering charge, the prosecutor said, “Sometime in 2017, Ogunlana converted to his own use N1m out of N2.8m purportedly paid to Brand in Demand Ltd for the NBA Ikeja Branch.

“Farounbi and Kappo on 13 occasions without authorisation and in order to facilitate the stealing of N20m funds belonging to the Ikeja Branch of the NBA issued cheques to Ogunlana.

“The cheques were paid into Ogunlana’s personal bank account No. 2004528818 with First Bank Plc during his tenure as chairman of NBA Ikeja branch.

“In order to disguise the legal origin of the money, he informed Adegoke Dairo of Brand in Demand Ltd to issue him an invoice/receipt No. 82871 as purported payment for the NBA Ikeja Branch,” he said. The offences contravened Sections 278, 285(1), 330 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.

The court adjourned till June 3, 2019 for full trial commence having admitted the three defendants to bail.

On June 3, the first prosecution witness, PW1, Daniel Okoye, told the court how Ogunlana diverted NBA funds into his personal use. He also told the court how the second and third defendants, Farounbi and Aderinola, signed multiple cheques in favour of the first defendant, Ogunlana and how he (Ogunlana) used the same to pay off personal debts.

Led in evidence by Samuel Daji, the prosecution counsel, Okoye, a lawyer, further told the court that the major account of the Association with WEMA Bank Plc was still being operated by the second and third defendants “after their tenure had expired contrary to the succinct provisions of the Uniform By-laws of the Branches 2015, which made it mandatory that all officers of the branch must hand-over to their successors within seven days of the expiration of their tenure.

“This is tantamount to professional misconduct under NBA By-laws.”

In his own testimony, the second prosecution witness, (PW2), Olubunmi Odeniyi, the provost of the NBA, Ikeja branch, informed the court that during his investigation, he discovered that insurance premiums paid by members of the branch to cover their life insurance policy were not remitted to any Insurance company as at the time of his investigation.”

Another prosecution’s witness, Coco-Bassey, who served as the branch’s Treasurer during Ogunlana’s tenure and Financial Secretary during Farounbi’s tenure, testified that the defendants engaged in financial impropriety. The witness added that, “at no time did the Executives of NBA Ikeja Branch approve any expenditure; the defendants always did things without the Executives knowing”.

While the case was on, the branch also made moves to recover the monies allegedly stolen by the trio as it set up a committee to investigate the insurance funds of the association. In December 2019, the branch adopted the resolution of its insurance committee and directed Ogunlana and others to refund N38 million branch money that was misappropriated.

“The NBA Ikeja Branch has by a resolution passed during its monthly meeting directed two past Chairmen of the branch Messrs. Yinka Forounbi and Adesina Ogunlana and a former treasurer of the Branch, Derin Kappo to refund the sum totaling over N38m which was alleged to have been mismanaged during their tenure as executive members of the branch”, it stated.

The resolution followed a consideration of the final reports presented to the Branch by two committees set up to investigate alleged incidents of mismanagement of the branch’s fund during their tenure.

Part of the resolution reads:

  • The Resolutions Of The Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch On The Reports Of The Insurance Committee.

WHEREAS:

  • At the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association held on 18th July 2018, the Branch by a unanimous resolution, set up a Committee called the “Insurance Committee” to conduct enquiries into the insurance policy of the branch between 2014 and 2018 financial year.
  • The Committee presented its final report dated 28th January 2019 to the General House at its February 2019 monthly meeting and following a motion moved by Adesina Adegbite Esq. and seconded by Chief Richard Ahonaruogho, the same was adopted for deliberations.
  • The report revealed that Yinka Forounbi (past Chairman 2014 – 2016) and Derin Kappo (Past Treasurer 2014 – 2016) continued to sign and issue cheques of the branch up till 2017, over one year after ceasing to hold offices and contrary to the provisions of the Uniform Bye-Laws of NBA.
  • The report further revealed that the following withdrawals were made directly into their personal accounts from the insurance accounts of the Branch without any explanations:
  • 3/10/17, the sum of N1,000,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 10/10/17. The sum of N700,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 13/11/17. The sum of N2,000,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 11/12/17. The sum of N500,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 11/12/17. The sum of N2,000,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 10/01/18. The sum of N1,250,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 16/01/18. The sum of N500,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 31/01/18. The sum of N500,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 31/01/18. The sum of N1,000,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 15/02/18. The sum of N1,000,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana
  • 12/03/18. The sum of N1,200,000.00 to Adesina Ogunlana.
  • In total, the Committee revealed a total of N11,650,000.00 unexplained withdrawals by the and in the name of the past chairman, Adesina Ogunlana Esq. from the Insurance accounts of NBA Ikeja.
  • At the Monthly Meeting of Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch held at its secretariat (THE BAR CENTRE) on Monday, 2nd December 2019, upon the consideration of the reports the Insurance Committee of the branch, Following the motion moved by Chief (Dr) Richard Ahonarogho and seconded by Boma Okigbo-Udebiwa Esq, the House resolved:
  • That Adesina Ogunlana, Mr. Yinka Farounbi, Mrs Derin Kappo and all persons indicted by the report of the Insurance Committee and to whom monies were traced from the insurance funds of NBA ikeja Branch, not being an insurance company, should return all such monies within 30 days from the date of the resolution.
  • That the Branch shall be and is therefore empowered to use all means to recover the said funds from any such persons.”

In his reaction to the allegations, Ogunlana said that the entire move was politically motivated to detract him from his ambition to become the President of the NBA.

“Whoever is sending this to you is just one of the reactions to the very intimidating profile of me and the radical agenda movement of the NBA. So, it is political”. 

Indeed, Ogunlana is the leader of the Radical Agenda Movement in Nigeria Bar Association (RAMINBA), a platform that was founded by him to contest for the presidency of the NBA. Ogunlana had attacked  several leaders of the bar like Dele Adesina SAN, and Femi Falana SAN who he saw as impediments on his way to NBA presidency. He accused the duo of being brains behind his disqualification from contesting as the branch declined to give him a letter if good standing, a major requirement to contest at the national level.

The immediate past chairman, Dele Oloke however debunked Ogunlana’s claim, saying the branch couldn’t have given him a letter of good standing when he was standing trial for allegedly embezzling the money of the branch. “Besides, there is a resolution of the branch which indicted him and asked him and others to refund about N38 million back to the branch. How could the branch give him any recommendation with these criminal issues yet unresolved?, Oloke asked.

Ogunlana has gained popularity through the RAMINBA platform, particularly in the post #Endsars. He represents some complainants and activists as a lawyer before the Lekki Incident Judicial Panel of Inquiry. He has also been a regular commentator on national issues on social media, making scathing remarks on politicians and other leaders of thought in the country.

Could this be a smart move to distract attention from his criminal trial?

As he opens his defence in the criminal trial against him, Ogunlana has the chance to prove his conspiracy and politically motivated theory. It is also left for the court to sift through the issues and come to a decision according to law.

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