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    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    Alleged N600 Million Laundering: Trial of Lagos Speaker Ikuforiji Adjourned Again

    The Speaker chose a new lawyer who wanted to familiarize himself with the case.
    The trial of Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, suffered yet another adjournment Tuesday as the judge fixed March 17 and 18 for trial.
    Justice Ibrahim Buba said that trial would be moved to enable Wole Olanipekun, Mr. Ikuforiji’s new lawyer, familiarize himself with the facts of the case.
    Mr. Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, announced his taking over of the case from a fellow senior counsel, Tayo Oyetibo.
    Mr. Oyetibo, however, would remain a part of the defence team.
    “I have no alternative than to soberly appeal to your lordship to grant me an adjournment so I can study the file and also see how far I can assist the cause of justice,” Mr. Olanipekun said.
    “I have to put in my utmost best. Criminal trial is not an exchange of banters. It is serious business, and every proceeding is serious business,” he added.
    The next adjourned date will mark exactly two years since the Speaker and his personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, were arraigned over a multi million naira fraud.
    Justice Buba, who was marking exactly one decade on the bench, said that he was “reluctantly” adjourning the matter.

    The duo were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge of money laundering amounting to N500 million.
    After a series of delays and adjournments, a frustrated Justice Okeke, handed over to Justice Buba after the former’s retirement last year.
    When Justice Buba took over, he repeatedly told both prosecution and defence counsels that he would not tolerate any frivolous attempt to delay the trial.

    The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, promptly amended their charges to 54 counts of money laundering amounting to over N600 billion.
    The commission accused the Speaker and his aide of receiving the money from the Lagos State House of Assembly without passing through a financial institution.
    Their first re-arraignment, in June last year, was stalled due to Mr. Ikuforiji’s absence as his lawyer said that he travelled abroad.

    After four postponements, the trial finally commenced two months ago.
    On Tuesday, Godwin Obla, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that he would not object to the prosecution’s plea for more time.
    “It is the constitutional right of an accused person to pick a counsel of his choice. I have no dispute with that,” Mr. Obla added.
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