By ADEJUWON OSUNNUYI
A former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Ikuforiji Sabit Adeyemi, and his Personal Assistant, Olabode Alade Atoyebi, have filed a notice of Appeal before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, challenging the verdict of the Appeal Court which ordered their re-trial for money laundering offences.
In the notice of appeal filed before Lagos Division of Appeal Court, the former Speaker and his Personal Assistant, through their lawyer, Barrister Abiodun Onidare, separately asked the apex court to set aside the whole ruling of the Appeal Court.
In the said notice of appeal, the appellants described the Appeal Court’s decisions as unreasonable, unwarranted, and cannot be supported having regards to the evidence and materials on record.
Consequently, both Ikuforiji and Oyebode are urging the Supreme Court, to uphold their no case submissions as upheld by a Federal High Court, in Lagos presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba,on September 26, 2014, and dismiss the Appeal Court’s decision.
The appellants further stated in the notice of appeal that,more grounds of appeal will be filed upon the receipt of the certified true copy of the judgement appealed against.
It would be recalled that the Lagos division of Court of Appeal, had set aside the ruling of a Federal High Court that discharged former Speaker, Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode of a 56 count charge of conspiracy and laundering the sum of N500 million belonging to the Assembly, an offences which according to the EFCC contravened sections 15 (1d) and 16(1d) of Money Laundry Act, MLA, 2004 and 2011.
The appellate court in a unanimous judgment set aside the verdict of the trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, holding that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had made out a prima facie case against the former Speaker and his personal assistant to require them to enter a defence to the charge brought against them.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Biobela Georgewill, the appellate court also ordered that trial should start trial ‘de novo’ (afresh) before another judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos other than Justice Buba in the light of the far-reaching findings already made by him.
Other members of the three-man panel are: Justice Side Dauda Bage and Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu.
The Judge, who discharged the Speaker and Atoyebi, while ruling on a no case submission filed by the duo, held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against the accused persons and also failed to prove any of the ingredients of the crime of money laundering.
However, dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) in the Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014 asked the Court of Appeal to hold that Justice Buba erred in law, when he held and concluded that counts 2-48 are incompetent, because they were filed pursuant to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which said law was repealed by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
The EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law, when it held that the provision of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011 only applies to natural persons and corporate bodies other than government; like the office of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The commission also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when it held and concluded that the case of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.
Justice Georgewill in his lead judgment held that the offences created by Section 1 of the MLA 2004 and 2011 respectively are strict liability offences and that their proof does not depend on the approval and purposes the money was used for, once the amount is above the threshold amount and was not paid or receive through a financial institution either by an individual or a body corporate.
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