Ikuforiji denies money laundering charges
"it is a pity that I am standing trial today based on a faceless petition, that has no name or address of the writer, who alleged that I committed a fraud or misappropriated the sum of over N7 billion."- Hon Ikuforiji
A former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Mr , Adeyemi Ikuforiji, on Thursday denied money laundering charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Federal High Court, Lagos, saying his trial is politically motivated.
Led by his lawyer, Dele Adesina SAN, the former speaker stated this while defending himself in a no – case submission he filed before the court presided over by Justice Muhammad Lima.
While denying the money laundering allegation leveled against him by the Commission, Ikuforiji said the initial allegations made against him by EFCC was fraud and misappropriation of funds, which the Commission later turned to money laundering.
He said ” it is a pity that I am standing trial today based on a faceless petition, that has no name or address of the writer, who alleged that I committed a fraud or misappropriated the sum of over N7 billion.”
Ikuforiji said that as a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if he had indeed committed such infraction, his case will not first get to the EFCC for trial, as members of the House would have dealt with him, by first impeaching him and hand him over to law enforcement agency.
Denying the allegation of money laundering, levelled against him, Ikuforiji said as the Head of the legislative arm of government, his role in any financial issue is to give final approval on any memo put before him, after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department have done their beats. “I don’t handle cash, or disbursement of funds, it is the duty of the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department to do that”
When asked if the 2nd defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, who was his personal assistant, did collect cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji said “Atoyebi collect money or cash for the Office of the Speaker, who at that time had over 100 staff, and definitely not for him in person. Atoyebi can collect money for the running of the office of the Speaker and allowances of other Staff”
On the status of the employment of the 2nd Defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, the former Speaker said Atoyebi being a staff of Lagos State was seconded to the office of the Speaker.
Also, giving evidence in the matter, a retiree, who was a former deputy Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Ibisola Olawoyin Ogayemi admitted that he knows the Defendants. Ogayemi confirmed that the Chief Accounting Officer of the House is the Clerk of the House.
On the modalities for financial transactions in the House, the witness said that after the office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department have done the paper works, they will send it to the Speaker for approval, and after his consent the documents will be returned back to them.
He added that on the return of the documents, the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department will raise invoices and cheques, and subsequently, the bank will bring the cash to the finance department for disbursement in the presence of bank officials and staff of the department to the beneficiaries.
Another witness, Mr. Kayode Motunrayo, a former banker from First Bank of Nigeria, corroborated Ogayemi’s evidence. Motunrayo told the court that he retired as a branch manager, First bank Agodi Ibadan.
He said that when the bank receive cheque for payment from any government institution or agency, including the Oyo State House of Assembly, the bank will take the money down to the finance department of that Agency and carry out the disbursement in conjunction with the officials of the finance department. He added that all banks follow that standard procedures.
After listening to parties , the court adjourned the case till June 1 and 2 for continuation of trial.
It would be recalled the the EFCC had arraigned Ikuforiji alongside his former Personal Assistant, Atoyebi on 54 counts charge bordering on the offence. Both of them had pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman, and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution, Mr Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly. The prosecution called only two witnesses in support of its case. The case was then adjourned for the defence to open its case and begin its defence.
However, Justice Liman was later transferred out of the Lagos Division and is now presiding over the case by fiat.
According to the charge, EFCC alleged that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.
The Commission accused the defendants of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.
Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.
The EFCC contended that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.
According to the EFCC, the offences contravenes the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.
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