Two former chairmen of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Adesina Ogunlana and Yinka Farounbi were on Wednesday arraigned for allegedly defrauding the association of N20 million.
Also arraigned was a former treasurer of the branch, Aderinola Kappo
Mr Farounbi served as NBA chairman between 2014 and 2016 with Kappo serving as treasurer during the period.
Mr Ogunlana served as chairman from 2016 to 2018.
The trio are jointly charged with conspiracy to steal.
Mr Ogunlana is charged with 15-counts of stealing and one-count of money laundering, while Mr Farounbi and Kappo are jointly charged with 13 counts of stealing.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the 30-count charge before an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
The former NBA Ikeja branch executives are accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of conniving and stealing N20 million belonging to the body of lawyers.
According to the EFCC Prosecutor, S. O. Daji, Mr Farounbi and Kappo allegedly committed the offences from June 15, 2016 to April 9, 2018 in Lagos.
While Mr Ogunlana is alleged by the anti-graft commission to have committed the offences from July 18, 2016 to April 10, 2018.
“Farounbi and Kappo on 13 occasions without authorisation and in order to facilitate the stealing of N20 million funds belonging to the Ikeja Branch of the NBA issued cheques to Ogunlana.
“The cheques were paid into Ogunlana’s personal bank account No. 2004528818 with First Bank Plc during his tenure as Chairman of NBA Ikeja branch.
“He dishonestly converted the funds to his personal use,” Daji said.
Shedding light on the money laundering charge, the prosecutor said: “Sometime in 2017, Ogunlana converted to his own use, N1 million out of N2.8 million purportedly paid to Brand in Demand Ltd for the NBA Ikeja Branch.
“In order to disguise the legal origin of the money, informed Adegoke Dairo of Brand in Demand Ltd to issue him an invoice/receipt No. 82871 as purported payment for the NBA Ikeja Branch,” he said.
The offences contravened Sections 278, 285(1), 330 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.
Following their plea, Mr Daji asked the court for a trial date and for the former NBA Ikeja executives to be remanded in prison custody.
“I will like to request for an accelerated hearing, we have 14 witnesses who are willing and ready to testify in this matter,” he said.
Counsel to the defendants, Akinola Olatunji, said: “We are anxious to see the determination of this matter.
“We have filed an application for bail dated May 17 and we have served our learned friends.”
The EFCC prosecutor, however, told the court that the anti-graft commission was only served the bail applications of the defendants in court before the arraignment.
He noted that he would “vehemently” oppose their bail application.
“The lives of our witnesses are in danger, the lead investigator in this matter is being threatened by the agents of the first defendant (Ogunlana).
“Even my learned colleagues are threatening me but I’m not afraid. I’m doing what their taxes were paid to do,” Mr Daji said.
Justice Mojisola Dada in granting the defendants bail, noted that they were ex-officio members of the NBA Ikeja branch.
“The first and third defendants (Ogunlana and Kappo) have been coming to court since Monday. This is proof of their preparedness to face their trial.
“The defendants shall release their international passports to the custody of this court pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“This case is adjourned till Monday June 3, 2019 for trial,” the judge said.