9 February 2013

Nigeria: N65 Million Alleged Theft - EFCC Arraigns Speaker's PA

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday arraigned the Personal Assistant to the Lagos State Speaker, Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Mr Oyebode Atoyebi over alleged stealing of N65 million belonging to Resourcery BDC Ltd.

Atoyebi, was charged along with a former regional manager of Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank Plc), Olayinka Sanni, on a two count charge of stealing the money.

Sanni and Atoyebi were said to have on June 29, 2011 conspired among themselves to commit felony to wit: stealing N32.5 million property of Resourcery BDC Ltd.

The duo, who are also facing a N672 million fraud charge before Justice Deborah Oluwayemi, however, pleaded not guilty.

Counsel to Atoyebi, Mr. Abiodun Onidare, asked the court to grant his client bail, noting that Section 249 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Lagos State 2011 gives only Lagos State the power to prosecute such matters in the state High Court and not EFCC.

However, Counsel to Sanni, Chief Sobo Sowemimo SAN, in his application, urged the court to grant his client bail since he will not jump bail, saying that the EFCC had earlier granted him administrative bail which he did not jump.

"The applicant (Sanni) has no criminal record and he is in poor health which further detention will compound matter. I graciously urge your Lordship to grant the defendant bail," Sowemimo added.

He argued that Sanni was granted bail by Justice Lateefat Okunnu on similar proceeding and urged the court to be bound by the same terms under which his client was admitted to bail, adding that if his client had committed the alleged offence, it should be the Lagos State Government that would prosecute in such circumstances.

"If EFCC wants to initiate such proceedings, they should go to the Federal High Court. If you are intiating any proceeding in the Lagos High Court, it has to be in the name of Lagos State and not Federal Republic of Nigeria, FRN," Sowemimo said.

Opposing the application of defence lawyers, EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo Rotimi, argued that they cannot raise an objection after the plea of their client has been taken with their consent.

Citing FRN vs Bode George (2011) 10 NWLR, part 1254 page 1, Rotimi said that EFCC was a common agency for both Federal Government and state governments, and urged the court to commence trial.

"Raising this objection today is to delay trial. We have two witnesses here in court and if my Lordship gives another adjournment, I would be closing my case because I am not calling more than four witnesses. I do not know any miscarriage of justice anybody would suffer if the matter is prosecuted by FRN or by Lagos State," he added.

On the defendants' bail application, Rotimi urged the court not to be bound by Justice Okunnu's ruling, stressing that the grounds which Sanni was granted bail was not same with charge LCD/177/2012.

"In this case, we have what it takes to convince this court and I did not take part in that prosecution," he further added.

After listening to the argument of all the counsel, the judge adjourned the case till February 13 for both continuation of argument and ruling.

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