The Supreme Court has reserved judgment until January 15, 2018 in the case of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who was charged with an alleged fraud of N600m.
The apex court will determine whether or not Ikuforiji should be tried afresh as ordered by the Court of Appeal. The ex-Speaker had earlier been set free of the fraud charges by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Justice Buba, in a ruling in September 2014, held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission failed to establish a prima facie case against Ikuforiji and dismissed the 56 counts levelled against him.
But the EFCC, which was displeased with Justice Buba’s ruling, appealed to the Court of Appeal, which, in November 2016, overturned Justice Buba’s verdict and ordered that Ikuforiji should be tried afresh before another judge.
But Ikuforiji rejected the appellate court’s decision and went before the Supreme Court in 2016.
The Supreme Court, it was learnt, has now fixed judgment in the case for January 15.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by Ikuforiji’s ex-aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, with whom he was charged with the alleged N600m fraud.
The apex court affirmed the Court of Appeal judgment that Atoyebi has a case to answer and that his case file should be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment.
The EFCC had contended that Justice Buba erred in law when he pronounced that the charges against Ikuforiji and Atoyebi were incompetent because they were brought under the Money Laundering Act, 2004, said to have been repealed by the Money Laundering Act, 2011.
The EFCC prosecutor, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), had in one of the 10 grounds of the appeal contended that the lower court was wrong to have concluded that Section 1 of the MLA applied only to natural persons and corporate bodies and not to government entities like the office of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Obla had maintained that government entities were not excluded from the provision of the MLA that cash payments shall not be made above the stipulated threshold.
Furthermore, the EFCC lawyer contended that the conclusion of Justice Buba that the submissions of the two witnesses called by the EFCC supported the innocence of Ikuforiji and Atoyebi.
Obla maintained that contrary to Justice Buba’s conclusion, none of the witnesses actually testified that Ikuforiji and Atoyebi did not receive cash payments above the threshold stipulated by the MLA 2004 and 2011, which according to him was the substance of the charges.
Obla argued that “The evidence of the prosecution witnesses that payments to the respondents were budgeted for and approved by the Governor of Lagos State does not support the innocence of the respondents.”
In its penultimate ground of appeal, Obla said, “The lower court erred in law when it held that the prosecution’s first witness testified that he knew nothing about the case.
“PW1, under cross-examination on June 5, 2014, testified that he personally carried out investigation in this matter.
“There was no evidence that PW1 said he does he not know anything about this matter.
“The findings of the lower court are not supported by the evidence before the lower court.”