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Judge’s absence stalls ex-Lagos speaker’s 9-year-old fraud trial

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Adeyemi Ikuforiji

The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Monday adjourned the trial of a former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, as the trial judge was said to be indisposed.

Mr Ikuforiji was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on a 54-count charge bordering on money laundering.

They had pleaded not guilty before Justice Mohammed Liman and were allowed to continue on bail granted them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

The trial of the defendants, earlier scheduled to continue on Monday, was stalled as the trial judge was said to be indisposed. The court said a new date will be communicated to parties in the suit.

At the last adjourned date, on March 17, the EFCC closed its case after calling its second witness, Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the House.

Mr Olatunji was led in evidence in EFCC counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, while he was cross-examined by defence counsel, Dele Adesina (SAN).

The defence was scheduled to open its case on May 11, but the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) hindered it.

After the strike ended, the Federal High Court proceeded on its annual vacation.

Before the vacation, there was a transfer of judges, and Mr Liman was transferred to another division.

However, Mr Liman is presiding over Mr Ikuforiji’s trial on administrative fiat.

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on fund misappropriation and money laundering.

They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.

The defendants were subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following the re-assignment of the case.

Mr Buba granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each, with sureties in like sum.

On September 26, 2014, Mr Buba discharged Mr Ikuforiji and his aide after upholding a no-case submission filed by the defendants.

Mr Buba had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), filed an appeal dated September 30, 2014, challenging the decision of the trial court.

Mr Obla argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

The EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than government.

The commission had also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.

In its judgment in November 2016, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court agreed with the prosecution and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.

Following the decision of the appellate court, the defendants headed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the ruling of the appellate court.

In its verdict, the apex court also upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case should be sent back to the chief judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.

Justice Liman consequently presides over the case.

According to the charge, the defendants were accused of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.

The amount is above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act.

Mr Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the assembly.

The EFCC said that the defendants committed the offences from April 2010 to July 2011.

The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of the Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011.

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Gov. Wike offers N50 million, automatic employment to physically-challenged person

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Screenshot 20211031 213934 WhatsAppBusiness

Governor Nyesom Wike has offered James Daniel, a disabled student of the Rivers State University with N50 million and automatic appointment as a university lecturer for bagging a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.

Mr Wike announced the monetary reward and appointment on Saturday at the 33rd convocation of the state university in Port Harcourt.

He said the honour bestowed on Mr Daniel was in recognition of his academic excellence and for being an inspiration to other disabled persons.

The governor cautioned state-owned universities to stop indiscriminate conferment of doctoral degrees on all manner of questionable candidates and people of material influence.

He emphasised that serious universities guard their reputation jealousy and award doctoral degrees only to students who have gone through years of rigorous intellectual research and interrogation and whose dissertation is independently adjudged to be sound and contributory to new learning.

He described as unfortunate, the current trend and practice in universities to award doctoral degrees indiscriminately, like chieftaincy titles, to all manner of questionable candidates.

Mr Wike also assured that the infrastructural development in the university started by his administration, including the four new campuses at Ahoada, Emohua, Ebara and Sakpenwa, will be completed by the second quarter of 2022.

(NAN) 

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PDP inaugurates new NWC members December 10

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Wadata House PDP National Secretariat

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold presentation of certificate of return and swearing-in ceremony of its newly elected national officers on December 10 in Abuja.

A statement by the party National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja on Saturday said that the event would hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, by 9:30 a.m.

It said the transition from the outgoing to incoming national officers of the party was sequenced to the successful conduct of the October 30 and October 31 elective National Convention.

“Accordingly, the valedictory session of the outgoing National Working Committee (NWC) has been scheduled to hold on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at the NEC Hall of the National Secretariat, Abuja at 11am,” the statement said. 

The party advised all leaders, critical stakeholders and its members nationwide to note accordingly. 

(NAN)

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Sokoto APC kicks against reconstruction of central market by private contractors

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Tams

The All Progressives Congress in Sokoto has called on the state government to reconsider its decision on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for the reconstruction and management of the Sokoto Central Market.

The party said it was shocked the government plans to surrender the reconstruction and management of the market to financial interests outside the state.

The APC chairman in the state, Sadiq Achida, at a news conference on Saturday said, “By so doing, our business community will be open to undue financial exploitation. The action will be most unkind.

“Doing so implies that this is the only administration in the history of Sokoto that has failed in its duty of providing a conducive business environment.

“Instead, it has decided to surrender them to private financial institutions whose sole interest is profit maximisation,” he said.

Mr Achida accused the government of making the decision about the same time the federal government paid the state N18.2 billion as budget support.

The chairman said, “Therefore, as patriotic citizens of Sokoto, who have the interest of our people at heart, we call on the government to reconsider its decision and borrow a leaf from its predecessors.

“These are people who have left a legacy of a conducive environment for commerce and industry in Sokoto State,” he noted.

(NAN) 

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