The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re-arraigned a former Governor of Oyo State, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, alongside Waheed Akanbi, before a Federal high Court in Lagos for an alleged fraud of N4.7bn.
The EFCC claimed that Ladoja and Akanbi committed the offence sometime in 2007.
The charge marked FHC/L/336c/08 was initially filed against the accused in 2008 and they were first arraigned before Justice A.R. Mohammed eight years ago.
They were re-arraigned before Justice Mohammed Idris following the dismissal of their appeal against the charges which went all the way to the Supreme Court over a period of seven years.
Ladoja appeared in court in a green Agbada of Ankara fabric, a brown cap and black shoes while Akanbi was dressed in a black suit.
The eight counts pressed against them by the EFCC bordered on money laundering and unlawful conversion of funds belonging to Oyo State to their own.
In one of the counts, Ladoja and Akanbi were accused of converting a sum of N1,932,940,032.48 belonging to Oyo State to their personal own, using a Guaranty Trust Bank account of a company, Heritage Apartments Limited.
The EFCC claimed that they retained the money sometime in 2007, despite their knowledge that it was proceeds of a criminal conduct.
In another instance, Ladoja was accused of removing a sum of £600,000 from the state’s coffers in 2007 and sent it to his wife, Bimpe Ladoja, who was at the time in London.
The ex-governor was also accused of converting a sum of N42m belonging to the state to his own, and subsequently used it to purchase an armoured Land Cruiser jeep.
He was also accused of converting a sum of N728,600,000 and another N77,850,000 at separate times in 2007 to his own.
The EFCC claimed that Ladoja transferred the N77, 850,000 to one Bistrum Investments, which he nominated to help him purchase a property named Quarter 361, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The EFCC told the court that Ladoja and Akanbi acted contrary to sections 17(a) and18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and were liable to be punished under sections 14(1), 16(a) (b) and 18(2) of the same Act.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty upon the charges being read to them.
The EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Oluwafemi Olabisi, consequently asked the court to fix a date for commencement of trial.
But the defence counsel, Mr. Bolaji Onilenla and Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, informed the court of their clients’ bail applications.
Onilenla, representing Ladoja, urged the court to allow his client to continue on the bail conditions granted him in 2008 by Justice Mohammed.
“The first defendant has kept full faith with the terms and conditions of the bail, and there was no single incident of default,” Onilenla said, while assuring Justice Idris that his client would “behave himself” and make himself available for his trial.
He said in case Justice Idris was not willing to allow Ladoja to continue on the previous bail, he should grant his client bail in liberal terms.
He said the charges filed against his client were bailable charges, pointing out that the prescribed punishment for the offences ranges between two to three years.
Olumide-Fusika toed the same line of argument and urged the court to allow his client to continue on the earlier bail or be granted a new one in liberal terms.
But the EFCC, in separate counter-affidavits to the defendants’ bail applications, urged Justice Idris not to admit them to bail, arguing that they had, by their conducts, frustrated the trial for almost a decade by challenging the competence of the charges all the way to the Supreme Court.
He said even if the judge was willing to grant them bail, it should be on fresh conditions because the case was starting de novo.
Justice Idris in his ruling held that the court could not deny the defendants bail on account of their exercising their constitutional right of appeal, which resulted in the delay of the case.
He added that there was no evidence that Ladoja and Akanbi breached the terms of the bail conditions given them by Justice Mohammed eight years ago.
“It is not out of place for this court to re-validate the order of A.R. Mohammed J.” Justice Idris held.
He adjourned till February 14, 15 and 16, 2017 for commencement and continuation of trial.