Why judge acquitted Lagos Speaker, Ikuforiji, of N600million money laundering charges

Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Lagos State Assembly Speaker. [Photo: spyghana.com]

Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Friday cleared Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, of charges of money laundering.

Mr. Buba said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, who instituted the charges against the Lagos Speaker, misconstrued the Money Laundering Act and ought to have withdrawn the case.

“This proceeding should have been treated as an aborted trial and the charges should have been withdrawn,” the judge added.

The EFCC had accused Mr. Ikuforiji and Oyebode Atoyebi, his aide, of laundering about N600 million. The Commission alleged that the Lagos Speaker and his aide carried out the transactions without passing through a financial institution.

But in his ruling, the judge described the trial as “anachronistic” and should not have been allowed to continue.

Loud cheers from Mr. Ikuforiji’s supporters erupted inside the court room as the judge ended his ruling. And for the first time since one hour 30 minutes – the duration of the judge’s ruling – he stood before the judge, Mr. Ikuforiji’s face of mask relaxed into a smile.

The trial of the Speaker and his aide began in 2011 when the EFCC arraigned them before Justice James Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on a 54-count charge of money laundering.

The case was later transferred to Justice Okechukwu Okeke, and then to Mr. Buba (after Mr. Okeke’s retirement in 2013).

After their arraignment in June last year, the judge granted the defendants bail in the sum of N1 billion each with two surety each in the sum of N500 million.

The EFCC, amending their charges to a 39-count, called only two witnesses – an investigator with the EFCC and Adewale Olatunji, former Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly – out of the seven it had intended for the trial before closing its case.

In response, the defence lawyers filed a nocase submission before the court urging it to discharge and acquit the defendants.

Mr. Buba’s ruling had been billed to be delivered two months ago but the judge had said he was unable to finish it due to heavy workload and fatigue.

On Friday, the tense atmosphere in the capacity filled court room was only punctured periodically by the raindrops lashing on glass windows.

Mr. Buba began by informing the lawyers that he had forgotten his reading glasses at home, and then proceeded to borrow one from a lawyer seated before him.

In his ruling, the judge agreed with almost all the submissions of the defence lawyer, noting that “it is only when all the ingredients of an offence had been laid out in evidence by the prosecution and that the evidence had not been discredited as a result of cross examination…that a prima facie case can be made out.

“Two witnesses testified for the prosecution,” Mr. Buba said.

“PW1 (first prosecution witness) admitted while being cross examined that all the monies in the ledger or cash register that was admitted was from the bank account of the House of Assembly, Wema Bank, Equatorial Trust Bank and Skye Bank.

“Yet each of the counts in the charge read a certain value amounting to dash dash dash without going through a financial institution.”

The judge said that the prosecution ought to had known that they were not investigating Mr. Ikuforiji as an individual, but his office as an institution.

“Therefore the prosecution cannot say that, in Count 1 for example, the amount of N338 million mentioned there was utilized by the applicant,” said Mr. Buba.

“In exhibit P1, the sum of N200 million was mentioned and represented as if it was meant for the personal consumption of the applicant. The amount there is N200 million and the beneficiaries are 40 in number. Each of them collected N500,000 and none of them is above the threshold of N5 million.”

According to Mr. Adeniyi, the prosecution’s first witness, the EFCC were not interested in the source or purpose of the money, but how it was released.

The judge described the entire prosecution as “a job taken too far.”

“Prosecution was not concerned whether there was a requisition for the money or whether the money was approved by the governor or budgeted; nor charged the applicants for collecting money without budgetary provision or the approval of the governor of Lagos State,” Mr. Buba said.

“With respect to the prosecution, the submission does not only fly against logic, it is also against the philosophy and spirit of our laws and elementary preliminary law and jurisprudence.

“This court will not, for instance, hold that the accused has a case to answer, that they conspired in 2011 to commit an offence in 2004. That will not only be anachronistic

“I think with respect, the submission that there was no evidence before the court from any bank or financial institution in Nigeria which shows any iota of payment to the accused person is fatally flawed. There is no duty on the accused to prove their innocence, it is the duty of the prosecution to bring that evidence.”

Mr. Buba also said that the Money Laundering Act was meant to apply to persons and corporate entities and not government.

He cited the instance of the millions of dollars that were flown to Brazil during the last World Cup to pay the allowances of the country’s football team.

“Nigeria is a federation practising federalism, each tier of government operates within the law… One arm should not in the name of criminal investigation muscle the other arm without any iota of truth but to merely to take over it and run it down,” he said

“The court agrees that this is indeed the first case in the annals of history of this country where an allegation is levelled against the Speaker of a House of Assembly by a ghost petitioner. The petitioner was left, the Speaker was arraigned and charged for functions of his office that were duly approved in law, sanctioned by law, and done for purpose for which it is meant and established,” the judge added.


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  • gymer

    wahala dey. “Mr. Buba also said that the Money Laundering Act was meant to apply to persons and corporate entities and not government.”

    • Dede

      Gymer and Akin,

      May we just ignore Judge Ibrahim Buba. He proved himself as stumbling block.
      Let us instead as a people insist that justice must be done on appeal.
      The EFCC must forthwith go on appeal to bring Adeyemi Ikuforiji to justice.
      All what Judge Buba said today must be reversed forever from history on appeal.
      If not, some other crooks will tomorrow dip into government’s bank account likewise.

  • Akin Johnson

    Dear Editor Premium Times:

    Please, can i ask a question: did
    Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, actually study
    Arabic Sharia law? Or, did he study English common law in a university?
    This question occurred to me as i read the excerpts of his reasoning in
    this case. I actually do not need to read to the whole verdict. It is
    bound to be as silly as the excerpts reported here.

    Once the Judge
    said moneylaundering laws do not apply to government (officials) i have
    no further interest in reading anything else he said. Ignorance of law begets ignorance of judicial reasoning.

    All over
    the world moneylaundering laws apply to government officials. For a
    Judge who forgot his reading glasses at home; and had borrowed one from
    someone else in the court, to come into public domain and utter contrary
    nonsense, totally disgraces Nigerian judiciary as jurisprudentially
    illiterate.

    • idavies

      Is there anything like “Arabic Sharia Law”?

  • Olutola

    Most times EFCC dont get judgement because of shoddy job and trial on pages of newspapers. They also provide legal amunitions to their accused by way of revealing too much. They arrest without investigation and rush to the court. They do that to common folks too. Same with Police force. When you go to report a case to police, the next thing; let us go and then they arrest people. 75% of folks in our prisons are awaiting trials. In this individual case the Judge was right in my considered opinion if all he said was correctly based on papers before him. If all monies were spent not by forging papers but by following due process then the case is not money laundering. They ought to follow through the track the money followed to show it was diverted and case would be if money was traced back to Ikuforiji (1) Corrupt enrichment (2) Illegal diversion of public funds (3)abuse of office…etc. They should learn from Ribadu in the case of Tafa Balogun. He did a painstaking investigation, followed the funds to its final destination and discovered they were all coming back to Tafa. let us learn from Gov Adams as well he presented a full proof case that even if you promise the judges the whole budget it will be too glaring that they erred. Take Ogboru case also, how could you go to challenge a previous election when yu have participated in a new one if you knew all along that the first one was illegal? was it not on the legality of the first tenure that the second was to arise? if you do not not think a tenure had finished why contest as it was in your opinion not supposed to have been. So the judges dismissed him. What I tell my friends is this; we think it is only those who went to University in Nigeria to study botany, chemistry that are half baked due to prolonged ASUU strikes and many other issues, what about lawyers, doctors, pharmacist, you all saw the rot of a police college? how can a sane police man ever come out of there?

  • the truth

    is this not the same judge that issued a stay for sanusi, where he stopped all investigation of lamido sanusi’s tenure in cbn.smh. so stealing government money is allowed.god have mercy

  • GbemigaO

    Interesting! Any government official can withdraw our commonwealth in cash and just spend it anyhow! What a judgement from a corrupt judge and what a flawed prosecution anyway. Only God knows how much has changed hands !

  • Mosaku 147

    EFCC has dropped charges and withdrawn the case against former labour minister and six others (6billion). Attorney General withdrew from the persecution of Mohamed Abacha(160billion). Now this same EFCC wants to to appeal a judgement given in favor of Ikuforiji (600million). Na country we dey so? One law for PDP another law for APC.

  • Ismail Ibrahim Bakori

    The same Justice Ibrahim Buba conferred perpetual immunity to Dr Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State restraining EFCC from arresting and investigating him. A very controversial that was also used the instrumentality of the judiciary to help Ex Governor Ibori. Before his appointment as High Court Judge, he was staying at modest house built at Rigachikun area in Kaduna. Fourteen years down the ladder. one can see him swimming in billion with choice properties in both Abuja, Port Hacourt, Asaba, Kano, Lagos ,kaduna and his native Taraba State there would should soon be a judgement for corrupt judges and their collaborators.