A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Adewale Atanda, on Thursday, informed a Federal High Court, Lagos, how former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, bought 22 vehicles to win the loyalty of 22 lawmakers in Oyo State House of Assembly to avoid impeachment in 2005.
Atanda, a lawyer, also informed the court that out of the 22 cars bought by the former governor, only 14 were given out to Ladoja’s loyalists in the State’s Assembly, while the remaining eight were shared among the former governor’s families.
Atanda, a political associate of Senator Ladoja, is a second witness to give evidence in the trial of Senator Ladoja, and a former Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Waheed Akanbi, who were arraigned before the court on charges bordering on laundering of N4.7 billion.
In the charge, marked FHC/L/336c/2008, the EFCC alleged that both Senator Ladoja and the former Commissioner of Finance conspired together to convert properties, and resources derived from an illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The duo were re-arraigned on an 8-count charge of money laundering contrary to Section 17(a) and punishable under Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
At the resumed trial of the two accused persons, Atanda, started his evidence by saying that the most memorable about the Impeachment of Ladoja was when a rift between the members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, in one hand, and political actors in Oyo State, like Late Lamidi Adedibu, and some external forces from Abuja.
The witness stated that when he noticed that there was attempt to Impeach Senator Ladoja, and to secure two third members of the Assembly members, which is 22, that would support Ladoja, he suggested that 22 vehicles be bought, and be shared to some members of the Assembly so as to woo them.
Atanda said to get the vehicles bought, he secured a loan of N80 million from Wema Bank, which he used his personal assets and personal guarantee to secure, as the Commissioner of Finance was unable to raise the money from the State’s purse.
He stated that despite buying and sharing of the vehicles, Ladoja was Impeached in December 2005. But stated that immediately after the Impeachment, a High Court in the State declared the Impeachment as Illegal.
He also stated that after the Impeachment, Senator Ladoja and his 14 loyalists at the State House of Assembly, and other political associates regrouped in Lagos at his hotel at Victoria Island.
He also stated that while in Lagos, each of the lawmakers asked Senator Ladoja to be paying them N1m each, and the lawyers who handled the matter at the State High Court, also increased their fees from N50 million to N350 million, on the condition that if they are to prosecute the matter up till Supreme Court.
He also stated that upon the enormous financial pressure on the former governor, he approached his bank, Lagoon Saving and Loan for another N50 million loan, and used his landed property at Victoria Island as security for the loan.
He further stated that after he secured the loan, he issued a cheque of N35 million to the chambers of the lawyers that handled the matter in December 2006.
He stated that when Senator Ladoja was returned to office after the Supreme Court judgement in 2006, the Commissioner of Commerce briefed Governor Ladoja and the Exco, how Governor Alao Akala, who was interim Governor transacted and entered into agreement with Churchgate Group, for supply of 10,000 bags of rice for the purpose of selling it to the public, but stated that the price at which the rice was to be sold was higher than the market price. Consequently, the rice was rejected.
He also stated that it was discovered that Charter Bank provided guarantee and collateral, and that the Akala’s regime had put up the State’s Shares quoted at the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE).
He stated that upon the discovery, Ladoja’s administration consulted team of lawyers, who advised him that the guard used by Akala’s regime was illegal, following the Supreme Court judgement that had declared his impeachment Illegal.
Consequently, he stated that his lawyer filed a suit at Federal High Court, Lagos, which also described the guarantee entered by Akala’s administration as unlawful, Illegal and called for evacuation of the rice.
However, due to time , the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, adjourned the matter till March 27 and 31, for continuation of trial.