“I have called on God concerning my ambition and He has given me the approval to go ahead.”
Despite being indicted for allegedly spending over N600 million on foreign trips for himself and his wife, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, on Monday told employees of the assembly that God had given him the go ahead to contest the governorship election in 2015.
“I have called on God concerning my ambition and He has given me the approval to go ahead,” he told a cheering group of staff members.
Though he said he was not making an official declaration yet, he told the staff that he had consulted with opinion leaders and stakeholders and his colleagues in the house and has received their blessings for him to run.
PM News reported that Mr. Ikuforiji, who has been Speaker of the State Assembly for more than 10 years, had told his colleagues of his intention to run in a meeting over the weekend at his official residence in Ikeja GRA.
Though the All Progressives Congress, APC, which Mr. Ikuforiji is a member of, had publicly insisted that the position of party’s candidate in 2015 was open to all members in the state, some party members have alleged that the leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, has zoned the position to Epe.
Mr. Ikuforiji who is originally from Epe but represents Ikeja constituency in the Assembly may be looking to exploit this unofficial zoning to his advantage.
Foreign trips and Ramadan largess
According to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, who slammed a 54-count charge of money laundering at a Federal High Court in Lagos on the Speaker, Mr. Ikuforiji through his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, collected and lined his pocket with over N600million of public fund.
Adebayo Adeniyi, the EFCC witness, told the court that the speaker collected N13.5 million for honorarium, N4.5 million for renovation of the Speaker’s residence, and N1.5 million for the Speaker’s Guest House every month for six consecutive months.
According to Mr. Adeniyi, on July 14, 2011, N5.4 million was paid to Mr. Ikuforiji for a trip to San Diego, California while his personal assistant and orderly collected N1.3 million and N1.2 million respectively.
On August 1, 2011, N4.4 million was paid to the Speaker as “cost of allowance”; his personal assistant and orderly pocketed N1.2 million and N1.1 million respectively. Two days later, N10 million was paid to the Speaker for Ramadan, the witness said.
On August, 2011, N6.4 million was paid to Mayowa Ikuforiji, the Speaker’s wife; and N1.3 million to the wife’s orderly, the witness said.
Between January and June 2011, N13.5 million was paid as honorarium, every month, to the Speaker, Mr. Adeniyi added.
He said N4 million and N1 million were also paid monthly, within the stated period, for the renovation of the Speaker’s official residence and guesthouse respectively.
Mr. Atoyebi collected all the monies in cash on behalf of the speaker, Mr. Adeniyi told the court.
The EFCC also alleged that apart from helping himself with a handsome serving of the state funds, Mr. Ikuforiji also assisted other member of the assembly in claiming dubious allowances.
For instance, Bolaji Ayinla, a member representing Mushin Constituency 11, stated how, with the speaker’s approval, he collected N22 million in cash for members of the House of Assembly and the staff of the legislature for the 2011 Ramadan celebration.
A civil servant, Toyin Atekoja, who works at the House’s Accounts Section, stated that “various cash payments were made to various persons.”
According to the EFCC, Ms. Atekoja said that 14 members of the House each received over N1.12 million, in cash, for the second conference and annual general meeting of Commonwealth Parliament Association held in Kigali, Rwanda.
Mr. Atoyebi allegedly collected, in cash, over N3.3 million on behalf of the Speaker for the same purpose.
Last June when the case came up for hearing, the trial judge, Ibrahim Buba, refused to grant Mr. Ikuforiji bail on personal recognition but instead slammed a bail condition on N1 billion each on the Speaker and his aide. The judge also ordered that they must meet the bail condition within 24 hours.
The defendants met the bail condition within the stipulated time.