Alleged N600 million fraud: How Lagos Speaker, Ikuforiji, spent funds on foreign trips, wife, others – EFCC
On August 1, 2011, N4.4 million was paid to the Speaker as “cost of allowance”; his personal assistant and orderly pocketed N1.2 million and N1.1 million respectively.
The trial of Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, continued Tuesday with the prosecution witness detailing how the defendants allegedly laundered millions of Naira.
Adebayo Adeniyi, the EFCC witness, told the court how the defendants collected N13.5 million for honorarium, N4.5 million for renovation of the Speaker’s residence, and N1.5 million for the Speaker’s Guest House every month for six consecutive months.
Mr. Ikuforiji and Oyebode Atoyebi, his aide, are facing a 54-count amended charge of money laundering amounting to over N600 million.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accused the Speaker and his aide of receiving the money from the Lagos State House of Assembly without passing through a financial institution.
The trial was adjourned last January for the prosecution to provide a summarized version of the monies collected by Mr. Ikuforiji and his aide.
But on Tuesday, Godwin Obla, counsel to the EFCC, said that he would rather continue with his previous method to avoid any grounds for appeal.
It was a painstaking effort that required Mr. Obla to go through each of the transactions with the witness. The judge admitted that, but overruled the defence’s plea that the prosecution tabulate the relevant sections of the transactions.
“We’ve lost time. We vacated three days for that exercise to be done,” said Ibrahim Buba, the trial judge.
“What I understand the prosecution to be doing is trying to go through the records viz a viz each count of the allegation. They are entitled to do so.
“It is indeed difficult, if not laborious,” Mr. Buba added.
Mr. Adeniyi continued his testimony by stating how the Lagos House of Assembly paid millions of naira to Mr. Ikuforiji; his wife, Mayowa; his orderly; his personal assistant; as well as the state’s Deputy Speaker.
All the monies were collected by Mr. Atoyebi and paid for in cash, the witness said.
On July 14, 2011, N5.4 million was paid to Mr. Ikuforiji for a trip to San Diego, California; his personal assistant and orderly collected N1.3 million and N1.2 million respectively, according to Mr. Adeniyi.
On August 1, 2011, N4.4 million was paid to the Speaker as “cost of allowance”; his personal assistant and orderly pocketed N1.2 million and N1.1 million respectively. Two days later, N10 million was paid to the Speaker for Ramadan, the witness said.
On August, 2011, N6.4 million was paid to Mayowa Ikuforiji, the Speaker’s wife; and N1.3 million to the wife’s orderly, the witness said.
Between January and June 2011, N13.5 million was paid as honorarium, every month, to the Speaker, Mr. Adeniyi added.
He said N4 million and N1 million were also paid monthly, within the stated period, for the renovation of the Speaker’s official residence and guest house respectively.
Asked why there were columns with Cheque Numbers in the cash register, Mr. Adeniyi responded that: “What they do is that a cheque is raised in most cases in the name of the Permanent Secretary and cashed from the bank.
“It is this cash that is eventually paid and registered in this document, the details of payments.”
Between February and March 2010, N7 million was paid to Mr. Ikuforiji for the maintenance of the Speaker’s official residence; another N3 million was paid him for the maintenance of his guest house, according to the EFCC witness.
He said N1.7 million was paid to the Speaker’s wife on May 6, 2010; the wife’s aide received N647,428 six months later.
Other monies paid to the Speaker, according to the witness, in 2010 include N1.2 million on May 12 for an emergency meeting in Abuja; N5.2 million on May 1 for a trip to Spain (for the Speaker and his aides); N3 million on June 21 for Umrah; N1.7 million on July 14 for the purchase of a Kia Rio; N4.2 million on August for the purchase of furniture for the Speaker’s office.
Others were N4.1 million for ceremonial outfits for the Speaker and two Sergeants-at-arms; N15 million for Eid-el-fitri celebration; N2.8 million for a trip to Italy; N5.5 million for a trip to Chicago; N3.9 million for election monitoring in California; and N15.2 million for voters’ registration exercise for the Speaker and entourage, among others, the witness said.
Mr. Adeniyi said that the Permanent Secretary, who along with the Director of Finance are signatories to the account, withdrew the money from the Lagos State House of Assembly’s account.
“Cash payments were withdrawn from the bank in the name of the Permanent Secretary and from our investigation, we were interested in seeing how these cash withdrawals from the Permanent Secretary in the Lagos House of Assembly were expended,” said Mr. Adeniyi.
“In the course of our investigation, we discovered that these cash withdrawals were paid to honourable members and officials of the Lagos House of Assembly. And these payments were above the threshold of cash in which the Permanent Secretary can transact.
“This was what drove our attention to this payment register which made us demand for it. We discovered that cash payments running into millions of naira were paid to the first accused (Mr. Ikuforiji) mostly through the second accused (Mr. Atoyebi) which goes foul to the Money Laundering Act,” Mr. Adeniyi added.
Mr. Atoyebi explained that cash payments of such nature were made to avoid trace.
“Basically, these cash payments are supposed to be made through a financial institution, paid to the beneficiaries, not through cash payments. Cash payments stall the tracing of the monies.
“We discovered that some of it was paid into the account of the first accused person. Some of it was used for his credit card and other personal matters,” he added.
During cross examination by Wole Olanipekun, counsel to Mr. Ikuforiji, Mr. Adeniyi said that he was not aware what the Speaker used the monies for.
“Our investigation is not focused on knowing whether he spent the money on his personal house.
“From our investigation, we did not go in depth into who approved the disbursements, we were particular about the cash disbursement which was above the threshold of transactions by a Permanent Secretary.
“Any payment must be made through e-payment, most especially when it is above the threshold,” Mr. Adeniyi said.
When shown one of the cash registers by the defence lawyer, Mr. Adeniyi said that he could not “remember seeing it.”
Mr. Obla objected to that line of questioning, insisting that the defence must tender the cash register as an exhibit before it court be used for cross examination.
The judge, however, said that the defence was at liberty to use any document that had been brought before the court.
“You cannot file a document and your witness said he cannot remember seeing it. If it was filed by the defence, it is a different ball game altogether,” the judge told Mr. Obla.
“Once you have provided this document, it is for them (the defence) to use it at their own time during the trial, not at your own time,” the judge added.
The trial was adjourned till April 28 for continuation of trial.