Former FCT Minister’s Plea Bargain Talks Break Down — EFCC

By SoundBite Admin on February 24, 2018

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The out-of-court settlement between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, has broken down, the commission told a federal judge Thursday.

The EFCC had charged the former Minister before a Federal High Court with money laundering.

Mrs. Akinjide was accused of laundering N650 million alongside former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke (said to be at large), a former Senator, Ayo Adeseun, and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Olanrewaju Otiti.

Muslim Hassan, the judge, had adjourned to enable the parties conclude the settlement talks after Mrs. Akinjide’s lawyer, Bolaji Ayorinde, reported that the N650million had been returned.

But at the resumed proceedings on Thursday, Nnaemeka Omenwa, counsel to the EFCC, said he had been instructed to turn down the former FCT minister’s proposal.

“I have instruction to reject the proposal as it’s not in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA) 2015. Based on that, we’re ready to go on with the trial, subject to your Lordship’s overriding convenience,” said Mr. Omenwa, who stood in for Rotimi Oyedepo.

But defence counsels, Mr. Ayorinde and Michael Lana (for second defendant), accused EFCC’s lead counsel, Mr. Oyedepo, of a breach of agreement.

Mr. Ayorinde said the defendants made a proposal to the prosecution in line with Section 14 of the EFCC Act.

“For the purposes of your Lordship’s record and because of the public interest that this case seems to unnecessarily attract, our proposal was made in accordance with established laws and there is no fixation on Section 270 of the ACJA,”

Mr. Ayorinde, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said.

“We’re very confident that this case is a sham and we’ll defend it vigorously. It’s political and we’ll show that it’s unnecessary and a waste of time and resources of the court.”

Mr. Lana accused the EFCC of breaching an agreement reached by parties with regards to the settlement, saying it amounted to a “betrayal”.

He said the defendants agreed to withdraw a civil suit against EFCC and Mr. Oyedepo after the prosecuting counsel indicated that the commission was open to an out of court settlement.

“Their refusal to consider the terms of settlement is to say the least a betrayal of trust by a lawyer. A representation as made to us that we should withdraw a civil suit we filed. Oyedepo is the first defendant in the suit,” said Mr. Lana.

“He made a proposal to us which we believed. On the day of the first arraignment in Ibadan, Oyedepo and Chief Ayorinde informed the court that they had agreed to settle. But the judge decided that the defendants should be arraigned while the talks continued.

“We withdrew the suit and the money they requested was paid. That’s why we were surprised when we received a hearing notice. A lawyer’s words should be sacrosanct. That’s an abuse of office. Oyedepo was the initiator of the settlement. That’s like 419. We’re highly disappointed with Oyedepo.”

Mr. Omenwa, however, denied that the case was politically motivated, adding that the allegations against Mr. Oyedepo were false.

“The EFCC is not a political party. We’re an independent organisation and is not out to witch-hunt anybody,” he said.

“There is no documentary evidence that they had any such agreement with Oyedepo that they should withdraw their suit. There’s no evidence before my Lord.”

In a short ruling, the judge said since settlement talks had “broken down,” EFCC was at liberty to call its first witness.

The trial began immediately with Mr. Omenwa calling the prosecution’s first witness, a bank worker, Kehinde Adeniyi, who said she is the Head of Customer Relations at her bank’s Dugbe, Ibadan branch. She said she knows Mrs. Akinjide and Mr. Adeseun.

Asked to narrate her connection with them, she said: “On March 26, 2018, I received a call from our Head of Operations Mr. Martins Izuegbe that we should pay the sum of N650million to Akinjide, Adeseun and Hon Taiwo Yinka once they produce two means of identification and sign a receipt of payment.

“They came, signed and the payment was made. The payment was in naira. They came with their Hilux van to pick up the cash.”

The receipt of payment was tendered in evidence.

The witness said under cross-examination by Mr. Ayorinde that she made three statements at the EFCC, which were also tendered in evidence.

Ms. Adeniyi said she merely carried out the instructions she was given, and that she did not know the source of the funds.

She added that she knew Mrs Alison-Madueke and that she did not know how the money was used.

The judge adjourned till March 8 and 9 for continuation of trial.

 

Posted on March, 29 2018

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