A former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, has told Justice Mohammed Liman of a Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, that his alleged money laundering case was politically motivated.
Ikuforiji is facing trial for allegedly laundering over N338.8million while serving as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The former Speaker, who took the witness box on Thursday, to testify in his “no case submission” application before the Court, told Justice Liman that the charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, were mere politics.
Denying the money laundering allegation, Ikuforiji said the initial allegations made against him by the EFCC were for fraud and misappropriation of funds, which the Commission later turned to money laundering.
“It is a pity I am standing trial today based on a faceless petition, that has no name or address of the writer, who alleged that I committed fraud or misappropriated the sum of over N7billion,” he stated.
He said as a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if he had indeed committed such an 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 before handing him over to the law enforcement agency.
The former Speaker said as the Head of the legislative arm of government, his role in any financial issue is to give final approval on àny memo brought before him after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department must have done their bit.
“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,” he stated.
When asked if the 2nd defendant, Oyebode Atoyebi, who was his Personal Assistant, PA, did collect cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji said, “Atoyebi collects money or cash for the Office of the Speaker, which 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, Ikuforiji 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 knew the defendants.
Ogayemi testified 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 after the office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department must have done the paperwork, they then send the same to the Speaker for approval, and after his consent, the documents will be returned back to them.
He noted 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 to the beneficiaries, all in the presence of bank officials and staff of the department.
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 the Branch Manager of First Bank Agodi, Ibadan.
He said when the bank receives a 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 standard procedures.
After listening to the testimonies, the Court adjourned the case till June 1 and 2 for continuation of trial.
The EFCC had arraigned Ikuforiji alongside his former PA, Oyebode Atoyebi on a 54-count charge bordering on fraud and money laundering.
Both of defendants had pleaded not guilty, 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 sum of N338.8million 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 alleged that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011, and the offences contravene provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.