15 February 2013

Nigeria: Appeal Court to Hear Ladoja's Appeal, Four Years After Arraignment

Four years after he was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos, a former Governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, will tell the Court of Appeal why he should not be prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

On April 8, Mr. Ladoja would try to convince a three man panel, headed by Justice Chima Nweze, why he would not face the money laundering charges preferred against him.

In November, 2008, the EFCC had arraigned Mr. Ladoja, alongside Waheed Akanbi, his former aide, before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 10-count of money laundering.

The anti graft commission alleged that the former governor laundered N4.7 billion through the account of Heritage Apartments Limited at Guaranty Trust Bank.

Both men pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Originally slated for Friday, Mr. Nweze adjourned after the court registrar wrongly listed the matter for hearing of motion rather than hearing of the appeal.

After he had been arraigned, four years ago, Wole Olanipekun, Mr. Ladoja's counsel, raised an objection against the charges on his client on the grounds that they were vague and did not link him with the alleged criminal acts.

Responding, Festus Keyamo, the EFCC counsel, said that the defence's objection was belated as the accused had already been arraigned and his plea taken.

The trial judge agreed with Mr. Keyamo, adding that such objection ought to have been made prior to arraignment and not mid-way into the trial.

Mr. Mohammed also ruled that the proof of evidence placed before the court by the EFCC links Mr. Ladoja with the charges preferred against him.

He therefore quashed all the motions filed against the EFCC to quash the charge and ordered trial of the accused.

Dissatisfied with the court's ruling, Mr. Olanipekun filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal, in 2010, seeking an order to quash the charges preferred against his client.

He maintained, in his notice of appeal, that the proof of evidence placed before the court by the EFCC had no connection with the charges and does not disclose any prima facie case against the accused.

He, therefore, prayed the court for an order stating that the EFCC has no power, jurisdiction or authority to prefer any charge against the former governor.

In one of their charges, the EFCC accused Mr. Ladoja of using N42 million to purchase an armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted £600,000 ( N150 million) to one Bimpe Ladoja in London.

The matter before the appellate court meant that the substantive trial before the Federal High Court stays on hold.

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