A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday refused to issue a warrant for the arrest of a former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, following his presence in court.
At the last adjourned date on Nov. 21, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had urged the court to issue a bench warrant against Mr. Ladoja for failing to appear in court, to answer to a N4.7 billion money laundering charges preferred against him.
Mr. Ladoja’s counsel, Bolaji Onilenla, in his reactions to the application for a warrant of arrest, had told the court that he was not aware that the business of the day was for arraignment.
He had argued that this was so because there was a pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
Mr. Onilenla informed the court that after the decision of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Ladoja had changed his counsel, and then, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.
He said neither the accused nor their counsel was served with any court summons to appear in court.
Mr. Onilenla had also challenged the prosecutorial powers of the prosecutor on the grounds that the fiat to prosecute was exclusively given to Festus Keyamo.
He said that such a fiat could not be transferred to any other person in his chambers.
The counsel also disclosed that the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed Mr. Ladoja’s appeal pursuant to Order 6; Rule 3 of the Procedure Rules, but that the application had been filed to restore the appeal.
He added that to continue with the trial would amount to showing disrespect to the apex court and it would be an infringement on the rights of the accused.
The judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, delivering his ruling on the issue on Friday, held that he would not make any orders as to arrest since the accused was present in court.
The judge also turned down the request of defence counsel for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal challenging the prosecutorial powers of the commission under the Money Laundering Act.
According to the judge, the request was against the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which allows speedy hearing of criminal cases.
Similarly, Justice Idris also dismissed the objection of defence counsel, challenging the appearance of the prosecution’s counsel, Olabisi Oluwayemi (from Festus Keyamo’s chambers).
The court, thereafter, fixed Dec. 14 for arraignment.
The EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned Mr. Ladoja along with his former aide, Waheed Akanbi, before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the two men conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an alleged illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that Mr. Ladoja used N42 million out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about 600,000 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja in London.
Messrs. Ladoja and Akanbi both pleaded not guilty to the charges at the trial court, and had urged the court to quash them.
The lower court refused the prayer to quash the charges.
Dissatisfied, Mr. Ladoja appealed against the decision of the Federal High Court.
But, the Appellate Court in its judgment delivered by Justice Sidi Bage disallowed the appeal and ordered the former governor to continue his trial at the lower court.
Mr. Bage, in his lead judgment, which was unanimously adopted by two other justices, had held that the EFCC had statutory powers to prosecute under Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004. (NAN)