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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Former Lagos speaker claims innocence in N338.8m trial, alleges political persecution

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Former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, has denied allegations of stealing N338.8 million belonging to the state House of Assembly. Ikuforiji and one of his legislative aides, Oyebode Atoyebi, are standing trial before the Federal High Court in Lagos over an amended 54-count charge of alleged diversion and laundering N338.8 million. However, the former Speaker has claimed that the trial is politically motivated.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought the case against Ikuforiji and Atoyebi. Despite pleading not guilty to the charges, the EFCC closed its case on March 17, 2021, after calling the second prosecution witness, Adewale Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Lagos House of Assembly.

Ikuforiji testified in his own defence, stating that the initial claims made against him by the EFCC were about fraud and misappropriation of funds, which the commission later turned to money laundering. He lamented that he is standing trial today based on a faceless petition with no name or address of the writer.

Ikuforiji argued that, as a three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, if he had indeed committed such an infraction, his case would not have first reached the EFCC for trial. He pointed out that members of the House would have dealt with him by impeaching him and handing him over to law enforcement agency.

As the Head of the legislative arm of government, Ikuforiji stated that his role in any financial issue was to give final approval on any memo put before him after the Office of the Clerk and that of the Finance Department had done their part. He denied handling cash or disbursing funds, stating that it was the duty of the Office of the Clerk and the Finance Department to do that.

When asked if Atoyebi, his assistant, collected cash on his behalf, Ikuforiji clarified that Atoyebi collected money or cash for the Office of the Speaker and not for him in person. He said Atoyebi could collect money for the running of the office of the Speaker and allowances of other staff.

Ikuforiji is currently awaiting the continuation of the trial, which has been adjourned until June 1.

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