The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) thursday informed a Federal High Court in Lagos that it had rejected the proposed out-of-court settlement filed by the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, and others, who are standing trial over alleged N650 million fraud.
Akinjide alongside Senator Ayo Adesheun and Mrs. Olanrewaju Otiti are standing trial before the court presided over by Justice Muslim Sule Hassan on charges bordering on the said allegation.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons, lawyer to the EFCC, Nnaemeka Omewa, told the court that his agency received a proposal for settlement from the accused personsâ€™ counsel.
He however, told the court that he has the instruction of the management of his agency to reject the said proposal, as it was not in line with the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.
He added that based on the rejection of the said proposed settlement, his agency was prepared for the trial of the accused persons.
In response to the prosecutorâ€™s submission, Akinjideâ€™s lawyer, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), confirmed that the three accused persons proposed the EFCC in line with Section 14 of the agencyâ€™s Act, stating that the prosecution now just informed them of its decision to the said proposal.
Ayorinde however stated that for the courtâ€™s record and because of public interest, that the case against his client and others, seemed unnecessary.
He told the court that they are confident that the case was a sham and would be defended vigorously, as it is political, unnecessary and waste of resources.
Equally, Adeseunâ€™s lawyer, Mr. Michael Lana, described the refusal of the proposed settlement of the accused persons as a betrayal of trust, which a lawyer should not be involved in.
Lana told the court that a suit was filed against the agency and Rotimi Oyedepo, a lawyer in the agency, and that the suit was withdrawn and the sum of N650 million was paid, on Oyedepoâ€™s promise that the criminal charge will not be prosecuted.
Lana said: â€œOyedepo made a proposal to us, which we believed, and withdrew the suit against the EFCC and himself. On the first arraignment, the EFCC and Oyedepo told us that the defendants should not be arraigned, as we agreed to settle.
â€œIt is at my lordâ€™s wisdom, Justice Malik, he decided that they can be arraigned, and that we discuss the settlement, that was how they were arraigned at Ibadan. We now fulfilled the conditions, we withdrew the suit, and the money he requested for was paid. .
â€œItâ€™s sacrosanct ethically that such a thing is not condone in legal profession. Oyedepo was the initiator of the settlement, we are highly disappointed in Rotimi Oyedepo â€œ
Also, the third accused. Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, through her lawyer, Akinola Oladeun, told the court that there was no stage she wanted to enter plea bargain.
Though, she stated that she was part of the proposal, but insisted that there was no time issue of plea bargain was mentioned.
After making his clientâ€™s known on the proposed settlement, Oladehun, called the attention of the court to his client application for bail variation
He said his client is due for medical check-up overseas which she has been postponing. He therefore urged the court to hear the application.
In response, the prosecutor told the court that they needed time to reply to the application, adding that his agency was yet to file the response.
Ruling on all the submissions, Justice Hassan said: â€œI have listened to the arguments, since the settlement had broken down, I will go to the trial of this case.
â€œApplication for the third defendant is not ripe for hearing, it shall be taken at the next adjourned date.â€
After the courtâ€™s ruling on the submissions, the prosecution called Mrs. Kehinde Adeniyi, a banker with a new generation bank.
Adeniyi while being led-in-evidence by the prosecutor, said she gave a cash sum of N650 million to Akinjide and Adesheun, and one Hon. Yinka Taiwo on the instruction of one Martins Ozuogbe, from the bankâ€™s head office.
The witness who is the first to be called by the prosecution said: â€œOn March 6, 2015, I received a call from our head office, from Martins Ozuogbe that we should take the sum of N650 million to Akinjide, Hon. Taiwo Yinka, and Ademola Adesheun upon signing of receipt payment, and two means of identification. And they came and signed the receipt and presented the means of identification and payment was made.
The witness, who is currently Head of Customersâ€™ Service of the bank, further stated that the payment was made in Naira, and the accused used their Hilux and box to collect the money.
The receipt for the payment of the money was tendered and admitted by the court as exhibit P 1.
During cross-examination by the defence teams, the witness told the court that in the course of investigating, the alleged fraud against the accused persons, she wrote three statements to the anti-graft agency.
One of the statements she said was written at the Ibadan office of the agency, while the other two were written in Lagos office.
She also told the court that she only knew Diezani Alison-Madueke, as former petroleum minister, adding that she did not know the source of the money, and the purpose which the N650 million was used for.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned till March 8 and 9, for continuation of trial.