Money laundering : Judge to rule on petition against Ladoja
A Federal High Court judge in Lagos, Justice Mohammed Idris, will on Thursday deliver a ruling on the admissibility of a petition written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against former Oyo state governor, Rashidi Ladoja.
When the trial resumed, EFCC counsel sought to tender the said petition through the first prosecution witness, Abdullahi Lawal who had earlier informed the court that sometime in July 2007, a written petition was received from the office of the Secretary to the Oyo state government, pointing accusing fingers at Ladoja and his aide, Waheed Akanbi.
But, opposing to the admissibility of the petition, Ladoja’s counsel, Bolaji Onilenla, maintained that the petition sought to be tendered has not been served on the defence.
Onilenla further contended that it is the mandatory provision of the law that the defence be served with any documents sought to be tendered before the court.
He said: “We submit that the witness may not be able to testify before the court.
“We need time to study the document sought to be tendered.”
On his part, Akanbi’s counsel, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, argued that the reason why the court should reject the admissibility of the petition is fundamental.
According to Fusika, “Your lordship had earlier directed that the defendants should be served with all the documents sought to be tendered.”
Responding, Keyamo insisted that the court has summary jurisdiction on the matter before it, being a criminal case.
The EFCC lawyer further contended that there is no strict law suggesting that the prosecution must supply the defence with every document it intends to use to prosecute its case.
According to Keyamo: “There objection does not go to admissibility at all. In our proof of evidence, we stated it there, that we will be relying on all the documents therein.
“The petition has to do with how the complaint came in, and how EFCC swung into action.
“They can seek adjournment to look at the document and cross-examine the witness.
“The document has met with the requirement for a document to be admitted in evidence.”
It would be recalled that the anti-graft agency had informed Justice Idris that Ladoja, Akanbi, converted a sum to the tune of N1,932,940,032.48 owned by the state to their personal use through the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) account of a company, Heritage Apartments Limited.
At the last hearing on the matter, the trial could not take place on owing to the insistence that the EFCC must comply with the provisions of the law.
This development became imperative after the lawyer who represented the Commission, Femi Olabisi called the witness into the witness box.
However, trouble started when counsel to the former governor, Onilenle and Akanbi’s counsel, Olumide-Fusika raised an objection on the reason that the witness was not listed as a witness.
According to Onilenle, “His name is not on the list of witnesses. We are surprised.
“Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 mandates the prosecution to make a list of witnesses available to defendants.”
On his part, Olumide-Fusika argued that he had no idea what the witness was going to say and was not prepared to cross-examine him.
The lawyer said, “EFCC ought to be ready before bringing us to court. It must be ready before arraignment.”
But Olabisi tendered an apology, just as he explained that the case was prepared before the ACJA came into effect.
The EFCC lawyer subsequently requested for more time to put things in perspective.
In his ruling, Justice Idris declared that: “Section 379 is mandatory. We’ll go with speed but in accordance with the law.
“Let’s do it within the ambit of the law. Let’s not overlook the issue and proceed.
“The prosecution should ensure that a summary of the issues and list of witnesses are made available to the defence before trial commences.”
It would be recalled that Ladoja and Akanbi were first docked before Justice A.R. Mohammed in 2008.
Specifically, the EFCC accused Ladoja of removing £600,000 (about N240,219,945) from the state coffers in 2007 and sent same to Bimpe Ladoja( one of his wives) in London.
The Commission further alleged that the former governor bought a N42 million armoured Toyota Land Cruiser using public funds.
The anti graft agency also contended that the former governor converted N728,600,000 and another N77,850,000 in 2007, and allegedly transferred N77, 850,000 to Bistrum Investments, which he nominated to help him buy a property, Quarter 361, in Ibadan.
Ladoja and Akanbi who were docked on an eight counts of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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