You Have A Case To Answer, Court Tells Indicted Lagos Assembly Speaker, Ikuforiji Over Fraud Charges
Fresh attempt by the embattled speaker of the Lagos state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Sabitun Ikuforiji to get off the hook of fraud charges filed against him was dismissed today by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Presiding judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in the same ruling,also held that the preliminary objection filed by the prosecution, EFCC against the speaker’s motion to quash the charges was misconceived.
Ikuforiji is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside his personal assistant, Oyebode Alade Atoyebi on a 20 count charge that borders on money laundering offences.Ikuforiji and Atoyebi had in a motion on notice brought pursuant to Sections 2, 3, 4, 92, 251 and 252 of the Constitution, urged the court to either quash the charges as presently framed or strike it out for lacking in concrete evidence.
The two accused had argued that the EFCC failed to establish prima facie evidence against them, which automatically robbed the court of jurisdiction to try them.The Speaker argued that the acts of the House of Assembly, being an arm of the Lagos State Government, could not be subjected to the criminal jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
Besides, the Speaker stressed that the House of Assembly, being a body created by the Constitution could only act through its principal officers, whose acts are deemed to be that of the House.
In response, the EFCC through its lawyer, Godwin Obla filed a preliminary objection to the motion, and stressed that the objection to trial was too late as the accused persons ought to have raised the objection immediately after the charge was read to them and not later.
Responding on points on law, Ikuoriji had faulted EFCC’s objection saying a careful look at the charge, would show that the EFCC never accused him of embezzlement or haven stolen money.
His lawyers had cited Section 318 of the Constitution in support of their position, and argued that the anti-graft agency was unable to answer the issues raised by the accused persons in the motion to quash the charges.
They stressed that the EFCC objection was not only misconceived, but also not supported by law, adding that Section 167 of the CPA relied upon by the EFCC only deals with formal defects on the face of the charge.
They further argued that the motion to quash the charge was mainly based on a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to adjudicate on the case against the accused persons under Section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011.
Ruling on the positions canvassed by both the prosecution and Defence today, the court agreed with the accused persons and held that EFCC’s objection was misconceived.The court however ruled that it was not true that it was the entire Lagos State House of Assembly that was charged as argued by Ikuforiji, adding that it is “Ikouforiji and Atoyebi that were charged.”
The court later fixed October 24 for trial.