The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday urged a Federal High Court Lagos, to issue a bench warrant against a former Governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, over money laundering charges.
EFCC said its prayer was based on Ladoja’s refusal to show up in court, to give answers to a N4.7 billion money laundering charges preferred against him by the Commission.
At the mention of the charge on Friday, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Olabisi Oluwafemi, from the law firm of Mr Festus Keyamo, informed the court that the matter was for the arraignment of Ladoja along with his former aide, Chief Waheed Akanbi.
He told the court that the accused were invited and asked to appear at the EFCC’s office, but they did not honour the invitation.
He said the accused deliberately stayed away from court and merely sent their lawyers to represent them.
He, therefore, urged the court to issue bench warrants against the accused, arguing that without their attendance in court the trial cannot proceed.
Reacting to the application for a warrant, counsel to Ladoja, Mr Bolaji Onilenla told the court that he was not aware that the business of the day was for the arraignment.
He argued that this was so, because there was a pending appeal before the Supreme Court. He informed the court that after the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ladoja changed his counsel, and then filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
He stated that neither the accused nor their counsel were served with any court summons to appear in court. Onilenla also challenged the prosecutorial powers of the prosecutor on the grounds that the fiat to prosecute was exclusively given to Fetus Keyamo.
He added that such fiat could not be transferred to any other person in his chambers.
He also disclosed that the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed Ladoja’s appeal pursuant to order 6 rule 3 of the procedure rules, but that an application had been filed to restore the appeal.
He added that to continue with the trial will amount to showing disrespect to the apex court and it would be an infringement on the rights of the accused.
After the submissions of the counsels the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, fixed Nov. 25 to rule on the application for a warrant of arrest.
The EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned Ladoja along with his former aide, Chief Waheed Akanbi, before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the two men conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an alleged illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
It also alleged that Ladoja used N42 million out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about 600,000 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja in London.
Ladoja and Akanbi had both pleaded not guilty to the charges and urged the court to quash the charges.
The lower court had refused the prayer to quash the charges. Dissatisfied, Ladoja had appealed against the decision of the Federal High Court.
But, the Appellate Court in its judgement delivered by Justice Sidi Bage, had disallowed the appeal and ordered the former governor to continue his trial at the lower court.
Bage in his lead judgement, which was unanimously adopted by two other justices, had held that the EFCC had statutory powers to prosecute under Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004.