The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal brought before it by the former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who was charged with an alleged N338 million fraud.
The full member panel of Justice of the apex court, presided by Justice Kumai Bayang Akaahs, in the judgment held that Ikuforiji’s appeal lacked merit and was consequently dismissed in its entirety.
The court, in the unanimous judgment, also returned the matter to the Federal High Court in Lagos for re-assignment to another judge for trial.
Recalled that the ex-speaker had earlier been absolved 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 (EFCC) failed to establish a prima facie case against Ikuforiji and dismissed the 56-count charge preferred against him.
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 to the Supreme Court in 2016.
The EFCC had contended that Justice Buba erred in law when he pronounced that the charges against Ikuforiji were incompetent because he was brought under the Money Laundering Act 2004, said to have been repealed by the Money Laundering Act 2011.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 should not be made above the stipulated threshold.
Furthermore, the EFCC lawyer faulted the conclusion of Justice Buba that the submissions of the two witnesses called by the EFCC supported the innocence of Ikuforiji.
Obla maintained that contrary to Justice Buba’s conclusion, none of the witnesses actually testified that Ikuforiji 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.
“The evidence of the prosecution witnesses that payments to the respondent were budgeted for and approved by the governor of Lagos State does not support the innocence of the respondents.”
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 the investigation into this matter.
“There was no evidence that PW1 said he did not know anything about this matter.
“The findings of the lower court are not supported by the evidence before the lower court”, he said.