A Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan has ordered that Chief (Mrs) Olanrewaju Otiti, the Iyalode Lagunna of Ibadanland Nd chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State, and a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide be remanded in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) custody over the N650 million allegedly collected to fund the 2015 election.
The court ordered the anti-graft body to produce unfailingly the second defendant in the case, Senator Ayoade Adeseun, who has failed to appear in court to face trial over the alleged fraud.
At yesterday’s hearing , counsel to the first and second defendants, Oloye Akinjide and Adeseun (at large) – Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN and Chief Michael Lana – announced their withdrawal from the case amid heated argument over a ruling by Justice Joyce Abdul-Malik.
In the charge, the defendants were accused of conspiring to take possession of N650 million unlawfully and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) & 4 of the Act.
Before the court took the plea of the defendants, Justice Abdul-Malik ordered that the12-count charge should be read out to the defendants, to which they pleaded not guilty.
Some of the count charge reads in part: “That you Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olanrewaju Otiti on or about March 26, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired among yourselves to directly take possession of the N650million, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section (18) of the Money Laundering Act , 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.”
The counsel to the first defendant, Ayorinde SAN, in his submission, urged the court to refuse an alleged defective prosecution applications dated March 9, 2017 and March 20, 2017, for not having the seal of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
He said it was improper for prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, to seek to substitute a charge without an order or permission of the court.
He challenged the EFCC counsel for seeking to replace the originating charge with another charge sheet dated March 20.Ayorinde argued that the charge sheet to be amended was defective.
Lana, counsel to Adeseun, while supporting the position of Ayorinde, SAN, submitted that once there is no seal in a charge sheet, it is deemed not to have been filed.
The EFCC counsel, while reacting, argued that the contentious charge sheet is competent and valid before the court, since it carried a receipt issued by the NBA .
In resolving the issue, Justice Abdul-Malik, after listening to the submission of the counsel, ruled that the court would not harbour any charge sheet not bearing the seal of the NBA.
The judge ordered that the prosecution counsel could substitute the defective charge with the one with the NBA receipt.
There was, however, emotional outburst while the prosecution counsel was seeking to substitute the charge sheet, as the defendant counsel rose against it, which led to the decision of the two defendant counsel to announce their withdrawal from the case.
But Akinjide and Olanrewaju, through an application, sought to enter into plea bargain.
The prosecution counsel informed the court that the parties have agreed on the plea bargain agreement and that negotiation has begun.
Counsel to Otiti, Adeniyi Ishola, while aligning himself to the plea bargain agreement, also moved application for bail for the third defendant.
Justice Abdul-Malik, who ordered the defendants to be remanded in EFCC custody, adjourned the case to 12 September.
Hearing on the bail application for the third defendant was adjourned to July6, 2017.