Court Vacates Warrant On Lagos Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji

Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, yesterday got a reprieve as Justice James Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos, vacated his earlier bench warrant empowering the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest him and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Alade Atoyebi. 

The judge had last week on the request of counsel to the EFCC, Mr Godwin Obla, issued a warrant for the arrest of the Speaker. But he had to vacate it after entertaining the submission of Ikuforiji’s lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), who explained that the Speaker was actually not aware of the proceedings which gave birth to the bench warrant.

When the matter came up yesterday, Oyetibo told the court of the pending application before the court challenging the said bench warrant. He also drew the attention of the court to the presence of Ikuforiji and Atoyebi in court, stating that the accused came to court on their own.

He said as shown in the processes, the accused were never served with any summons to appear in court, stressing that: “The purpose of bench warrant is to compel their appearance, but since they have come to court on their own, our proposal is that we are prepared to withdraw our motion against the order, while the accused will report to the Lagos office of the EFCC on Monday (December 19).”

The senior advocate assured that the accused would not only report to the EFCC office on Monday, but that they would also appear before the court on January 17, 2012, which the court had earlier fixed for their arraignment. He then applied that the bench warrant should be vacated, saying that the accused are honourable men, who have no reason to run away from trial.

Atoyebi’s lawyer, Ugwuzor Adindu aligned with Oyetibo’s submission, and stressed that his was adopting it wholly. Responding, Obla, EFCC’s lawyer, confirmed the position, and said that he had no objection to the application for the bench warrant to be vacated. He stressed that he merely applied for the bench warrant at the last adjourned date to compel the appearance of the accused in court, and that since they (Ikuforiji and Atoyebi) have promised to report at the EFCC on Monday, there was no need to object same.

He noted that the anti-graft commission was desirous of going into the merit of the matter, and does not want to be held down by issues like the one at hand.

The judge consequently vacated the bench warrant, and also struck out Ikuforiji’s application. The court also ruled that January 17 arraignment date subsists. Apart from Ikuforiji and Atoyebi, the court room was crowded with all the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly and several members and chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) including former Lagos Tourism Commissioner, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.

The EFCC had filed a criminal charge of money laundering against the speaker and hi9s aide, claiming that the due misappropriated the Assembly’s funds to the tune of N581 million. Ikuforiji, who was charged under the Money Laundering Act, was accused of conspiring with Atoyebi to accept various cash payments from the Assembly without going through financial institution. The cash payments range from N273.303 million to N8.135 million.