EFCC said the speaker mismanaged N673 million, not N500 million.
A Judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Ibrahim Buba, on Monday, refused granting bail on self recognition to the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, slamming a N1 billion bail on him instead.
Mr. Ikuforiji was re-arraigned before Mr. Buba for alleged money laundering, alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, following the retirement of the previous judge on the case, Okechukwu Okeke.
In a ruling which surprised many present in court, the judge said that he was not bound by the terms of the bail earlier granted the Lagos Speaker by Mr. Okeke.
Mr. Ikuforiji had been enjoying freedom based on a bail granted him on self recognition by the former trial judge; while Mr. Atoyebi’s bail was secured by the Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
“They will not be remanded in prison if they are able to perfect the bail conditions within 48 hours,” said Mr. Buba on Monday. “But if they fail, a bench warrant will be issued against them.”
The Speaker’s trial before Mr. Okeke, who retired last month, had been riddled with controversies and series of adjournments forcing the judge to eventually adjourn the 13-month proceedings indefinitely.
Monday’s re-arraignment saw the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, increase the money laundering allegations from the initial N500 million to N673 million in an amended 54-count charge. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Tayo Oyetibo, counsel to Mr. Ikuforiji, told the judge that he had filed a bail application “out of caution,” although his client ought to have continued on his bail since the charges were largely the same. Mr. Oyetibo added that Mr. Ikuforiji had never defaulted in attending his trials.
The judge responded by initially slamming a N5 billion bail with two sureties in like sum for each of the defendants, stunning the lawyers and forcing Mr. Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Tunde Akinrimisi to plead for a reduction to N1 billion.
Both lawyers said that none of their clients was worth N5 billion.
In the end, Mr. Buba acquiesced, insisting that they meet the bail conditions within 48 hours or be remanded in prison pending when they perfect them.
The amended charges, dated June 4, 2013, accused the speaker and his aide of conspiracy and accepting cash payments amounting to N673 million from the Lagos State House of Assembly without going through any financial institution.
Last February, a request by Godwin Obla, EFCC counsel, for Mr. Okeke to withdraw from the case because his impending retirement in May could make him unable to conclude the trial was turned down by the judge. However, last month, while adjourning the case indefinitely, Mr. Okeke accused the EFCC of a “deliberate act” to delay the trial.
Mr. Okeke, who also withdrew from the case, stated that there were “tactics set by persons to blackmail the court.”