By Funke Busari
For the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Adeyemi Ikuforiji; and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi; the hard times are here again as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)he has added 36 fresh charges bordering on money laundering to the 20 it had earlier filed against them.
For Atoyebi in particular, it seems there is no end to his travails as he has just been discharged of an earlier financial crime related matter at a Lagos High Court.
The Lagos Assembly Speaker and his PA now face a total of 56 charges. They are now being accused of laundering N673m, as against the N500m the earlier charges contained.
According to the amended charges dated June 4, 2013, Ikuforiji and his aide were accused of conspiracy and acceptance of various cash payments to the tune of N673m from the state House of Assembly without going through any financial institution.
The EFCC said the offences, allegedly committed between April 2010 and July 2011, contravened Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.
The amendment of the charges followed the re-assignment of the case to a new judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, after the former presiding judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, withdrew from the case on April 24, 2013.
The re-arraignment, earlier scheduled for Monday, was later adjourned till June 24, after the defence lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), complained to the court that neither the accused nor himself had been served with the amended charges.
He said he was not served with the court processes, not to talk of being informed about the re-arraignment.
The former presiding judge, Okeke, while withdrawing from the case, had said the EFCC had caused an “unprecedented delay” in the case.
Okeke had said there were “tactics set by persons to blackmail the court”, adding that his withdrawal from the case was in the interest of justice.
He had on February 18, 2013, refused EFCC’s request, asking him to withdraw from the case since he might not be able to complete the case due to his impending retirement in May.
EFCC had argued that it would save time for the judge to hands-off the case at that time since the case would have to start from the beginning regardless of the stage it got to before his retirement.
Okeke said in his ruling, “This case has witnessed an unprecedented delay by the prosecution and tactics set by persons to blackmail this court. In the interest of justice, I’ll transfer the case to another judge, and hearing notices will be issued at a later date.
“This matter is hereby adjourned sine dine (indefinitely).”
On April 9, 2013, the prosecuting counsel, Chief Godwin Obla, who started the matter, withdrew from the case, forcing the judge to cancel 13 dates earlier fixed for the continuation of trial.