The Economics and Financial Crimes Commission, has said it will appeal against the ruling of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which discharged and acquitted Lagos Speaker, Rt Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi of money laundering charges.
Both had been standing trial on a 54-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N503 million. The Speaker had however raised a submission of no case through his lead counsel Wole Olanipekun SAN which was upheld by the court.
Ruling on the no case submission, Justice Buba held that it was difficult not to agree with them that the prosecution misconstrued the provisions of the money laundering Act, by charging the accused under a repealed law. He noted further that it was the duty of the prosecution in a criminal case, to establish all elements of the offence against an accused, adding that the prosecution failed to discharge this duty in the instant case.
“The submission of prosecution does not only fly against logic, but against the spirit and philosophy of the law and elementary jurisprudence. The prosecution with respect has misconstrued and misinterpreted the provisions of the money laundering law; a thing is laundered only when it is dirty with the goal of cleaning it.
“This court has no difficulty with the phrase transaction or going through financial institution which was clearly stated by Chief Olanipekun in his address. If the prosecution called two witnesses and both of them did not give evidence in support of the charge, the court is duty bound at the close of the prosecution’s case, to decline to call on the accused to enter his defence.
“This court has no difficulty from the evidence of Pw1 and 2, and the document before the court, in agreeing with Chief Olanipekun that this trial has been based on “trial and error” approach. At first, it was triggered off by a suspicion generated from the petition of one Eleya Olotu, who has been established to be faceless and wicked.
“As submitted by learned counsel for the defence, if at all the petitioner existed, he has disappeared into thin air, and suspicion cannot take the place of truth.
“The prosecution applied the brake appropriately by desisting from calling further witnesses after two, since prosecution should not be translated into persecution.
“This court will not for instance hold that the accused had conspired in 2011 to commit an offence in force in 2004; there was no doubt that the prosecution was in difficulty on which offence to charge and which law.
“There is no duty on the accused to prove their innocence, it is the duty of the prosecution to bring that evidence.
“It is a witness called by the prosecution who testified before the court that the cheques were issued to the bank in the name of the clerk of the Assembly, and all requisitions made, were approved by relevant authorities.
“Nigeria is federation practising federalism, each tier of government operates within the law, and one arm should not in the name of investigation try to mussel the other arm without any iota of truth.
“The courts are duty bound to protect the interest of justice, therefore, there should be no sentiments in the interpretation of the law. From whatever angle the matter is considered, including the fact that Pw2 had vouched the innocence of the accused, this proceedings should have been treated as an aborted trial and the charge withdrawn.
“Having not done the needful as expected, the court is at liberty as the law entitles, to uphold the no case submission and discharge the accused. This court therefore agrees that this is the first case in annals of history of this country, where an allegation is made against a speaker of the House of Assembly by a false petitioner.
“It is the considered opinion of this court that the prosecution has not made out a prima facie case against the accused. The court upholds the no case submission, and consequently, the first and second accused are hereby discharged” I so hold.