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Lagos Speaker, Aide, Acquitted Of N503 Million Misappropriation Charges

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Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has discharged and acquitted the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Adeniyi Ikuforiji and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, of the 54-count charge of money laundering preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Justice Buba ruled on Friday that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the accused persons and that the trial was outdated.

He added that the prosecution misconstrued and misinterpreted the Money Laundering Act on which the. case was predicated.

The EFCC had alleged that the defendants had sometime between April 2010 and July 2011 conspired and accepted various cash payments amounting to N503 million from the House without going through a financial institution.

The accused persons were charged to court by the EFCC in December 2011 and the case had suffered several setbacks.

Lead defense counsel, Wole Olanipekun, had prayed the court to discountenance the charges preferred against Ikuforiji saying that the Money Laundering Act 2004, with which the accused person was charged have been repealed and replaced with the Money Laundering Act 2011 and so should not have been used in charging him.

Atoyebi’s counsel, Tunde Akinbisi, aligned his submissions with the arguments of Olanipekun.

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Justice Buba upheld Olanipekun’s submissions and ruled that the first and second defendants be discharged and acquitted.

He said the case against both men was full of mere speculation which could not take the place of facts and that the two witnesses called by the EFCC did more harm than good to the case of the prosecution, as they failed to prove and collaborate the charges and allegations against the accused persons.

The EFCC, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and has said it would appeal.

“The learned judge erred in this ruling. The proof of evidence to the charge clearly showed that the provisions of the Money Laundering Act had been violated by the accused persons in receiving various cash payments from the assembly amounting to about N338.8 million,” the prosecuting counsel, Godwin Obla, said.

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