By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday fixed Dec. 11, for re-arraignment of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, charged with laundering N338.8 million.
Ikuforiji was charged alongside his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on 54 counts.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on funds misappropriation and money laundering.
They, however, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.
The defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.
On Sept. 26, 2014, Buba, discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding their no-case submission.
Buba had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), filed a notice of appeal dated Sept. 30, 2014, challenging the decision of the trial court.
Obla had argued that the court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.
EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the government.
The commission also submitted that the trial judge erred in law by holding that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the defendants.
In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal in November 2016, upheld the appeal and ordered re-trial of the case before another judge.
Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
In its verdict, the apex court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and ordered that the case should be sent back to the chief judge of the Federal High Court for assignment to another judge.
The trial is now to begin afresh before Justice Mohammed Liman.
On Wednesday, Mr Tunde Akinrimisi appeared for the defendants and informed the court that he was only served with hearing notices in the suit.
He said that he was not sure whether the defendants had been served.
He urged the court to grant an adjournment to enable the defendants to appear in court.
In response, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said that the charge was not new to the defendants, and reluctantly accepted the request for adjournment.
He urged the court not to allow any delay in the case.
According to the EFCC, the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act.
The EFCC accused them of conspiring to accept cash payments of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly – without going through a financial institution.
Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position as the Speaker to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.