EFCC arraigns Ondo Speaker, others over alleged fraud

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Bamidele Oloyelogun, and two others before the state High Court in Akure over alleged N2.4 million fraud.

The arraignment followed the Akure High Court’s declaration that it has jurisdiction over the case.

The EFCC Speaker and the other accused persons were charged with fraud and arraigned before Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye.

According to the EFCC, the accused persons were instructed to attend a seminar for which the sum of N2.4 million, belonging to the House of Assembly, was paid to them, but they failed to attend the program.

The two other persons arraigned alongside the Speaker on a two-count charge of fraud were Felemu Bankole, the member representing Akoko South-West Constituency 2 in the state assembly, and a civil servant, Segun Oyadeyi Bankole.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to the allegations levelled against them.

At the resumption of the trial, EFCC lawyer Kingsley Kudus requested that the defendants be held at the Olokuta Correctional Facility.

Femi Emodamore, the defendants’ lawyer, responded by asking the court to reject the EFCC’s request for remand, claiming that the defendants’ administrative bail application was still pending.

According to the lawyer, the second defendant (Oleyelogun) was experiencing a health issue that required immediate medical attention.

He requested that the court reprimand the fictitious complainant (former Deputy Speaker Iroju Ogundeji) for allegedly sending the Speaker obnoxious communications.

In his ruling, Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye asked the defendants to enjoy their administrative bail until the next hearing.

Subsequently, Justice Adebusoye adjourned the case till May 18 for a proper hearing.

When the case came up for hearing in February, 2023, the lawmakers said that the EFCC lacked the authority to prosecute crimes impacting the finances and assets of the state because the Assembly had already passed a bill to address charges of corruption in the state before the case came up for hearing in February.

In a preliminary objection, the defendants requested that the court deny jurisdiction over them and dismiss the allegations because the EFCC lacked the authority to bring charges against them since the assets they were being tried for were state property.

According to Emodamore, the State Public Complaint Financial Crimes and Anti-wrongdoing Commission Law, enacted and signed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in January 2022, prevents the EFCC from bringing charges against the defendants for alleged wrongdoing.

However, Fredrick Dibang, the EFCC’s lawyer at the time, asserted that the court has jurisdiction because the state law passed by the state assembly conflicts with the acts of the National Assembly that created the EFCC. When there is a conflict between a state’s rule and the National Assembly’s, the state’s direction is suspended, the lawyer argued.

According to Dibang, the Assembly approved the measure to thwart the prosecution of the legislators and the state servant for alleged misconduct and corruption.






     

     

    However, Justice Adebusoye overturned the state statute in his decision and ruled that the EFCC has the authority to look into and prosecute the lawmakers for the alleged fraud they were accused of.

    “The offences against the defendants are not state offences promulgated by the state legislation but a federal offence, having been enacted by the National Assembly, though relates to finances of Ondo State.

    “Without wasting the time of this court, it settles that the complainant is empowered to investigate and prosecute the three defendants on the two counts charge as stated in the information file, being federal offenses and even though the alleged ones involved belong to the Ondo state government,” the judge stated.

    The judge, therefore, dismissed the preliminary objection as filed by the defendants and assumed jurisdiction to adjudicate on this matter.

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