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NIGERIA: Court to Rule on Ikuforiji’s No-case Submission on July 11

A Federal High Court in Lagos monday  fixed July 11, to rule on the no-case submission made by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.

Ikuforiji is standing trial alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on an amended 56-count charge bordering on the offence.

Justice Ibrahim Buba reserved ruling after the defence counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had made a no-case submission on behalf of his client before the court.

Adopting his submissions, Olanipekun argued that the prosecution had not in any way made out a case against the accused to warrant him entering the dock to open his defence.

Citing a plethora of authorities, the SAN silk formulated several issues for determination, ranging from constitutional, jurisdictional and touching on the sovereignty of the office of the speaker.

He argued that the office of a speaker of a House of Assembly of a state was constitutionally created, and so, by parity of reasoning, the first accused was sovereign as presently constituted.
Olanipekun noted that the charge against the accused largely dwelt on transacting with funds above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act (MLA), and not necessarily whether they were in cash or not.

He argued that the accused had not been involved in any transaction within the contemplation of the Act since all funds collected on his behalf were based on requisition notes which were approved and handed over to banks, before cash was received.

The counsel maintained that if the monies collected on behalf of the assembly were actually drawn from a financial institution, then the issue of exceeding the threshold no longer existed as that would amount to a circus.

He said the National Assembly would not have contemplated by the enactment of the Act, that the accused who had only obtained funds officially for the benefit of the assembly, would now stand trial for performing his official duties.

The SAN also argued that the 2004 Act, under which the accused was charged, had since been repealed by a subsequent legislation of 2011, adding that the effect of repealing a statute was simply to discountenance it as though it never existed.

Olanipekun also noted that the failure of the prosecution to demonstrate elements of conspiracy between the accused persons, also showed the futility of the proceedings before the court.
He enjoined the court to decide whether it was possible within the tenure of the MLA, for the accused to be charged for dealing with funds approved for official reasons.
According to the SAN, even the evidence of PW two attested to the fact that all the funds obtained for the benefit of members of the sssembly, were legally approved.

He therefore, submitted that the prosecution had not made out any case against the accused, for which he was expected to now enter a defence.

Olanipekun said: “I submit that this proceeding amounts to a mere witch-hunting of the accused, and criminal proceedings should not be used for such purposes.
“I therefore, urge this honourable court to put a halt to the prosecution of the accused; he has been attending court since 2011. and I think enough is enough.”

Counsel to the second accused, Mr Tunde Akinrimisi, also aligned himself with the submissions of first defence counsel.

Akinrimisi submitted that the evidence of PW1 was inconclusive and based on a mere hearsay, adding that the court cannot act on such unfounded allegations.
In response to the submissions of defence counsel, the prosecutor, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), urged the court to disregard the arguments of  both counsel, and order the accused to open their defence.

Obla argued that the confessional statement of the accused before the EFCC, was enough evidence on their admission of having transacted with cash of the assembly, about 57 times.
He maintained that the provisions of the MLA clearly made it an offence for any individual or institution to transact with funds above the stipulated threshold, without going through a financial institution.

Citing the provisions of the Halsbury Laws of England, Obla argued that the accused was not covered by any immunity, adding that the self-accounting Laws of Lagos State, did not preclude officers from complying with the MLA.

He stressed that although the 2004 statute had been repealed, the 2011 enactment provided that such repeal shall not affect anything done or purported to be done pursuant to that Act.
Citing the case of Patrick Njovens vs State, Obla submitted that in establishing the element of conspiracy, it was not necessary for the accused to be seen coming out from the same location “like those who murdered Julius Ceaser”

He therefore, urged the court to disregard the application of the defence counsel, and order the accused to open their defence.
After listening to the submissions of both parties, Justice Buba fixed July 11 for ruling.

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