Court Orders Arrest Of Lagos Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji Over 7 Billion Naira Alleged Fraud

Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji
Justice James Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos Friday  issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Alade Atoyebi.

They are to be arrested and brought to court at the next adjourned date to face the 20 count-charge of fraud and conspiracy preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The judge’s order followed an oral application by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Godwin Obla, who accused the speaker of reneging on his promise to submit himself to the anti-graft agency.

The EFCC had filed a twenty-count charge against Ikuforiji and Atoyebi, and the duo were billed for arraignment before Justice Tsoho yesterday but they failed to show up in court.

As soon as the case was called Friday, Obla told the court that he was informed by the Investigating Police Officer in charge of the matter that the accused persons were requested to present themselves to the EFCC on Thursday, but that they pleaded that they be allowed to present themselves Friday.

He added that the speaker and his aide again reneged upon the undertaken. Based on this, he urged the court to issue a warrant for the accused to be compelled to appear in court, a request that was granted by the court.

Justice Tsoho consequently adjourned the case to January 17, 2012 for arraignment.
Investigation revealed that the speaker failed to appear in court yesterday for fear of being detained all through the weekend. A copy of the charge sheet however revealed that the speaker is charged with a N7 billion fraud.

He was between 2010 and this year alleged to have conspired with his aide to accept various cash payments ranging from 273 Million Naira to 9 Million Naira without going through a financial institution. The offences are contrary to sections 1(1), 18(a) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under sections 15(2)(b), 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

Meanwhile, reacting to planned arraignment and the arrest warrant, the Action Congress of Nigeria yesterday accused the EFCC of acting unprofessionally and sensationalising the anti-corruption fight by seeking to ambush and embarrass the speaker.

In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji  Lai Mohammed, the party said the EFCC had already invited the media to  cover a planned  arraignment of the speaker yesterday, "even when he and his lawyers had not been informed of  the arraignment." The party said the speaker, being a law-abiding citizen from a party that strongly believes in the rule of law, will definitely make himself available at the next adjourned date.

It warned the EFCC to "adhere strictly to the laid-down procedures and respect the rights of citizens in carrying out its anti-corruption battle, especially because no one can be adjudged guilty until he has been so pronounced by a court of law." It said if the anti-graft commission had followed the normal procedure, it would have either served the speaker a summon or informed his lawyers of the plan on Thursday.

Also, a statement from the office of the speaker signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Adebayo said: "The speaker did not receive any court summons up till now, requesting him to show up in any court. As a law abiding public officer, he would have definitely honoured such summons.

"The truth of the matter, however, is that no such thing as a court summons has been received. So, it will be incorrect to insinuate that Hon. Ikuforiji refused to honour a court summons of any such. As a law abiding citizen, the Hon. Speaker has always made himself available on request to the top officials of the EFCC since the beginning of the commission’s probing of the petition by some faceless groups regarding an alleged 7 Billion Naira fraud to the EECC some months ago."