A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on Thursday, dismissed the application to quash fraud charges against Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The presiding judge, Okechukwu Okeke, also fixed October 24 for “accelerated hearing” of the trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 20 count charge of fraud and money laundering against Mr. Ikuforiji and his special assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.
In his ruling, Mr. Okeke admitted that the National Assembly cannot legislate for states; he also disagreed with Mr. Ikuforiji’s counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, that because the speaker is part of the government, he transacted business on behalf of the government.
“It was alleged that the offence was committed by him, not the Lagos State government and this has nothing to do with the House of Assembly,” Mr. Okeke said.
The judge further stated that the charge by the prosecution was against the speaker and his assistant while they were discharging their duties.
“To argue invariably…there is no charge against the Lagos State government or the Attorney General of the state,” Mr. Okeke told the court.
“I therefore dismiss the motion to quash the charges”.
Mr. Ikuforiji’s face was devoid of expression; so was his assistant, who stood on the dock alongside his principal, from where they listened to the judge’s ruling.
It took a moment for dozens of the speaker’s supporters, including some principal members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, who filled the court room to capacity to understand the full implication of the ruling.
“The judge said there will be a trial,” one of the supporters resignedly explained to his colleagues, before they quietly filed out of the court room.
Speaking to journalists after the ruling, Mr. Ikuforiji maintained that he was innocent.
“I believe that the legislative arm of government should be allowed to function properly and no government, whether at the higher level or whatever, should interfere in the affairs,” said Mr. Ikuforiji.
“It is not right,” he added.