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Ikuforiji – ex-Lagos speaker – to be rearraigned over money laundering

Former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Adeyemi Ikuforiji is to be rearraigned over money laundering.

Ikuforiji will be arraigned along with his personal assistant Oyebode Atoyebi.

The Appeal court sitting in Lagos today set aside the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba  of the Federal High Court who acquitted  the former Speaker  and his Personal Assistant.

he appellate court in a unanimous judgment declared  that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had  a prima facie case against Ikuforiji and his aide to require them to enter a defence to the charge.

Justice Biobela Georgewill, who delivered the lead judgment also ordered that the retrial should be done by another judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos division.

Other members of the three-man panel are: Justice Sidi Dauda Bage and Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu.

 Justice Buba on September 26, 2014 discharged  Ikuforiji  and Oyebode over a 56 count charge of conspiracy and money laundering in the sum of N500 million belonging to the Assembly.

The offence, according to the EFCC prosecutor Godwin Obla, SAN, contravened sections 15 (1d) and 16(1d) of Money Laundering Act, MLA, 2004 and 2011.

Justice Buba, while discharging the Speaker and his aide on a no-case submission filed by the duo, held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against the accused persons.

The anti-graft agency also failed to proof any of the ingredients of the crime of money laundering.

The EFCC through its counsel, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) appealed the case.

The anti-graft agency contended that Justice Buba erred in law, when he held and concluded that counts 2-48 are incompetent.

That is because they were filed pursuant to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which said law was repealed by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

EFCC further contended that the lower court erred in law, when it held that the provision of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011 only applies to natural persons and corporate bodies other than government, like the office of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.

The commission also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when it held and concluded that the case of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondent.

Justice Georgewill in his lead judgment held that the offences created by Section 1 of the Money Laundering Act 2004 and 2011 respectively are strict liability offences. 

He said that their proof does not depend on the approval and purposes the money was used for, once the amount is above the threshold  and was not paid or received through a financial institution either by an individual or a body corporate.

“Regrettably, the court below went on a voyage of its own, discussing cash payment of million made to the Super Eagles in Brazil, even without any scintilla of evidence before it, instead of remaining focused on the issue at hand.

“Does the fact that all persons likely to have committed a particular alleged offence had not been prosecuted a reason for the court to decline jurisdiction of one of them being prosecuted? Certainly not.

“I consider many of the issues raised so randomly by the court below as irrelevant and inconsequential to the just determination of the question before it, which is, whether the appellant made out a prima facie case against the respondents or not.

“Very worrisome to me, is the attitude of the court below, considering between the decision of this court and its own decision on which one to follow, even when its attention was called to the decision of this court.

“I find this attitude quite bizarre and not in sync with judicial attitude toward the time honoured doctrine of stare decisis (doctrine of precedent). It is pure rascality, impertinence and disregard for judicial hierarchy in this country.

“In the light of my finding above, I have no difficulty resolving the sole issue for determination in the negative against the respondents in favour of the appellant and I hold firmly therefore, that the appeal has merit and ought to be allowed . 

“The ruling of the lower court is hereby set aside,” Justice Georgewill said.

The case file will now be sent back to the chief judge of the Federal high court for re-assignment to another judge for the retrial of the former speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his aide Oyebode Atoyebi.

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