The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wednesday re-arraigned a former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide, and two chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
The trio of Akinjide, Senator Ayo Adeseun who represented Oyo Central senatorial district between 2011 and 2015 and Mrs. Olanrewaju Otiti, a chieftain of the party in Oyo State were re-arraigned on a N650 million money laundering charge.
At the proceedings yesterday before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the prosecution had amended the charge against the defendants.
He asked the court to quash a previous charge made against them and substitute same with a fresh 24-count amended charge.
When the counts were read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Bolaji Ayorinde, who is representing Ms. Akinjide then made an oral application for the court to allow his client to continue on the existing bail granted to her by the previous court.
The lawyers for the other defendants also made similar requests.
But the EFCC prosecutor, Oyedepo objected and instead asked the court to impose fresh bail conditions which will secure the attendance of the defendants in court for their trial.
He said, “My lord the prosecution is worried about how this case has travelled from Ibadan to Lagos and my lord will be the fourth judge that will handle this case, all at the instance of the defence.
Our fear is that these defendants are interfering with the quick dispensation of justice in this case and the interest of justice will be better served if defendants file motion for bail, so that we can respond to it by placing before the court, reasons why these defendants should not be granted bail and we can only place that fact before my lord by way of affidavit”.
In a short ruling, Justice Aneke dismissed his objections and granted the oral application of the defendants to continue on the existing bail earlier granted to them by the former trial judge.
The judge said, “I have perused the submissions of respective counsel, I am of the view that bail should not be used to serve as punishment on the defendants whom the constitution presume innocent until otherwise proven.
“Consequently I order that the defendants should continue on the existing bail earlier granted to them by Justice Muslim Hassan”.
The court then adjourned the case to September 30 for trial.
Akinjide was first arraigned on January 16, 2018, before Justice Sule Hassan alongside Adeseun and Otiti, on a 24-count charge bordering on fraud and money laundering.
They, however, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.
The trial began before Justice Hassan, with witnesses testifying, but midway into the case, the defendants asked for the transfer of the case to Ibadan.
When the case eventually came back to Lagos, the defendants alleged bias against Justice Hassan and the case was then transferred to Justice Aneke.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants received the money from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
The money was part of the fund allegedly shared by the PDP stalwarts during the 2015 campaigns.
The money, according to the anti-graft agency, was said to form part of a total sum of 115 million dollars allegedly disbursed by Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.