COURT ADJOURNS FORMER LAGOS SPEAKER’S MONEY LAUNDERING TRIAL FOR 6 MONTHS

Oladimeji Ramon

The money laundering trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, before the Federal High Court in Lagos was stalled on Wednesday with Justice Mohammed Liman adjourning till September 30.

The court’s registrar announced to the parties that the judge had ordered a six-month adjournment of the trial, earlier scheduled to open on Wednesday.

The court registrar said the long adjournment was informed by the directive of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, that new trials must not be opened in view of the plan to transfer judges this month.

But the six-month adjournment is in sharp contradiction to Section 396(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which allows only a maximum of 14 working days adjournment in a criminal trial, where a day-to-day trial is not possible.

The prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ekene Iheanacho, who travelled from Abuja to Lagos for the trial, expressed displeasure with the turn of events, noting that he had only two witnesses to call in the case.

Ikuforiji and Atoyebi are facing amended 54 counts bordering on alleged diversion and laundering of N338m belonging to the Lagos State House of Assembly.

They were re-arraigned before Justice Liman December last year, five years after they were earlier discharged of the offences by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the same court in 2014.

In September 2014, following a no-case submission by their lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Justice Buba had discharged Ikuforiji and Atoyebi of the entire 56 counts filed against them by the EFCC.

Not pleased with Justice Buba’s decision, the EFCC had gone on an appeal, resulting in the overturning of Justice Buba’s verdict in November 2016.

The appellate court ordered that the case file be returned to the Federal High Court for the defendants to be tried afresh before another judge.

Dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal’s decision, Ikuforiji and Atoyebi proceeded to the Supreme Court but they lost as the apex court.

Upon their re-arraignment before Justice Liman, they pleaded not guilty