Trial of Ikuforiji: EFCC calls former Lagos Assembly clerk as witness

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LAGOS – A witness, Mr Adewale Olatunji, Friday told a Federal High Court in  Lagos  that the conferences attended by the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly (LAHA) were based approval.

Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Assembly, was giving evidence at the resumed of Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker of LAHA, who is facing charges of money laundering.

Ikuforiji is standing alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, an amended 56-count charge bordering money laundering.

Olatunji, a retiree, and also the second prosecution witness led in evidence by the prosecutor, Godwin Obla (SAN), told the court that he was the clerk of the Assembly in 2007.

He said that as clerk of the house, he was in charge of its administrative activities and to some extent, its finance.

According to him, he also employed the second accused as an aide to Ikuforiji.

The witness told the court that as soon as funds were received from the State Government, the Commissioner for Finance embarked a budget analysis and issued guidelines for its implementation.

He said that the Commissioner for Planning also moderated the budget, noting that the stipulated that one- twelfth of the total overhead running cost be issued to the Assembly on a monthly basis.

According to Olatunji, LAHA maintains three accounts with Skye , Wema and Equitorial Trust Bank and bank cheques were always issued in the name of the clerk of the house, who confirmed them.

The witness told the court that funds allocated to the house were expended in accordance with the budget.

He said that staff payments were in cash while those to corporate entities were paid in cheques.

During cross examination by the defence counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the witness told the court that the office of the speaker of the assembly was a corporate entity.

He said that all payments approved for the house were based on requisitions.

The witness also affirmed that the records and documentation of the assembly in relation to its transactions were tidy and devoid of any illegality, since the funds were approved for official assignments.

Olatunji told the court that he was not aware that the and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) experienced  difficulties  in obtaining the financial records from the assembly.

On the issue of the petition against Ikuforiji by one Eleya Olootu, the witness told the court that he was only informed of the petition by the EFCC.

He told the court that he never saw a copy of the petition during his visit to the commission.

The witness also admitted before the court that all seminars, conferences, or retreats attended by members were based on approvals.

He said members were given estacode from the for such events in order to facilitate assignments and they showed evidence of attendance of such meetings on return.

Olatunji said he was not aware of any conspiracy on the part of the accused to divert funds for illegality.

The witness noted that the services of auditors were employed from the office of the Auditor-General, to audit the assembly’ account.

He said he was not aware if any query was raised with respect to the account, adding that the assembly also had its own accounting laws which were promulgated in 2001.

Under cross examination by the second defence counsel, Mr Tunde Akinrimisi, the witness told the court that the composition of the assembly was 40 members, including the Speaker.

With the consent of all counsel, Ibrahim Buba adjourned the case to June 20 for continuation of .

The prosecution will call its last witness on the next date.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed an illegal act of accepting cash payments of over N273 million from the Assembly between April 2010 and July 2011 without going through a financial institution.

Ikuforiji was also alleged to have used his position to misappropriate about N500 million of the Assembly’ fund.

The offence is said to contravene the provisions of Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act 2011. (NAN)