Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
For collecting a sum of N650million from the alleged $2.1billion arms deal allegedly diverted by the former National Security Adviser (BSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), to fund the 2015 campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ms. Jumoke Akinjide, was thursday remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Akinjide, a former senator in the seventh National Assembly, Ademola Ayoade Adeseun, and the erstwhile Chairman of the party in Oyo State, Alhaji Yinka Taiwo, were said to have collected the money on behalf of the state to fund President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s re-election campaign and other partyâ€™s standard bearers in the said election.
But a Federal High Court 2 sitting in Ibadan presided over by Justice Joyce Abdul Malik who ordered the remand of Akinjide, also joined another chieftain of the party, Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, to be remanded in the anti-graft custody till July 6, 2017.
The court also ordered the EFCC to produce unfailingly the second defendant in the case, Senator Adeseun, who has failed to appear in court to face trial over the alleged fraud.
At yesterdayâ€™s hearing, counsel to the first and second defendants, Akinjide and Ayoade Adeseun (at large), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and Chief Michael Lana, announced their withdrawal from the case amid heated argument over a ruling by the presiding judge, which they considered â€˜unfairâ€™ to the defendants.
In charge no FHC/IB/26c/2017, the defendants were accused to have conspired to take possession of N650millon unlawfully and committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the money laundering Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) and 4 of the Act.
Before the court took the plea of the defendants, Justice Abdul-Malik ordered that the12-count charge be read out to the defendants, to which they pleaded not guilty.
The counsel to the first defendant Akinjide), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, in his submission, urged the court to refuse an alleged defective prosecution applications dated 9 March, 2017 and 20 March , 2017 for not having the seal of the Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA).
He said it was improper for the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, to seek to substitute a charge without an order or permission of the court.
He challenged the EFCC counsel for seeking to replace the original charge with another charge sheet dated March 20, contending that the charge sheet to be amended is defective.
Also, Lana, counsel to second defendant, Adeseun, while supporting the position of Ayorinde, submitted that once there is no seal in a charge sheet, it is deemed not to have been filed.
The EFCC counsel, Oyedepo, while reacting, argued that the contentious charge sheet is competent and valid before the court, since it carried a receipt issued by the NBA.
In resolving the issue, Justice Abdul-Malik, after listening to the submission of the counsel, ruled that the court would not harbour any charge sheet not bearing the seal of the NBA, but ordered that the prosecution counsel could substitute the defective charge with the one with the NBA receipt.
There was, however, emotional outburst while the prosecution counsel was seeking to substitute the charge sheet as the defendant counsel rose against it, which led to the decision of the two defendant counsel to announce their withdrawal from the case.
Earlier, the first defendant, Akinjide, through an application, sought to enter into plea bargain as well as the third defendant, lanrewaju.
The prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, informed the court also that the parties have agreed on the plea bargain agreement and that negotiation has commenced.
Counsel to the third defendant, Ishola, while aligning himself to the plea bargain agreement, also moved application for bail for the third defendant.
Justice Abdul-Malik who ordered the defendants to be remanded in EFCC custody adjourned the case to 12 September.