JUDGE Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, yesterday fixed July 5 to determine whether or not the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, will be let off the hook over corruption charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge fixed the date after counsel on the matter addressed the court on a motion by Ikuforiji seeking to quash a 20-count money laundering charge preferred against him and his aide, Oyebode Alade Atoyebi, by the EFCC.
The duo 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 currently framed or strike them out for lacking in concrete evidence.
Ikuforiji’s counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), in his submission in support of the motion yesterday, argued that a careful look at the charges revealed that the EFCC never accused the Speaker of stealing money or embezzlement.
Referring to Section 318 of the Constitution, Oyetibo explained that Speaker of the House of Assembly was part of government and that Ikuforji only exercised governmental power by transacting business on behalf of government.
But in his response, the prosecuting counsel, Godwin Obla, stressed that the accused persons ought to have raised their objection to the charges at the point of plea in accordance with Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), adding that their failure to do so was fatal to their case.
However, Oyetibo, in his reply on point of law, faulted the EFCC’s argument by saying the anti-graft agency was unable to answer the issues raised by the accused persons in the motion to quash the charges.
He stated that Obla’s submission was not only misconceived but also not supported by law.
According to Oyetibo, Section 167 of the CPA relied upon by the prosecution deals only with formal defects in the charges.
Oyetibo pointed out 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.
The accused argued that the EFCC failed to establish prima facie evidence against them, which automatically robbed the court of jurisdiction to try them.
The Speaker had 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.
Ikuforiji, in his objection, contended 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 those of the House.
He argued that since he was charged in his capacity as the Lagos Assembly Speaker, the charges amounted to a criminal indictment on the entire House.
Ikuforiji further contended that in so far as the charges alleged that he and his aide accepted cash payments from the House, the constitutional immunity enjoyed by the House on such transactions makes the case ineffective.