Former Oyo State governor Rashidi Ladoja has kicked against a move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to tender as evidence, a petition written against him in 2007 by the then Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

Abdullahi Lawal, a police officer and prosecution witness for the commission, told the court on Wednesday that the criminal allegation against Mr. Ladoja is premised on that petition. 

The EFCC then sought to tender the petition as evidence. However, Bolaji Onilenla, counsel to Ladoja, raised strong opposition, stating that the petition was not front-loaded as required by the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts (ACJA).  As such, he argued admitting it as evidence would amount to an ambush by the prosecutor as it was not served on the defense.

He said it was on the same basis that the defense had at the last hearing date opposed to the competence of Lawal to testify as a witness because his statement was not front-loaded, an objection the court upheld, directing the prosecution to go back and do the right thing.

Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, counsel to Waheed Akanbi, the second defendant supported Mr. Onilenla's submission, adding that the failure to have front-loaded the petition against Ladoja as part of the proof of evidence showed that the prosecution was not serious about the case.

“Your Lordship advised them at the last adjourned date to go and file everything they need to but they didn’t do that. I fear that the prosecutor is quite experienced and I will go as far as saying that they knew we would object to this and it shows that they are not ready to prosecute the case,” he said.

Responding, prosecutor Festus Keyamo insisted that the petition sought to be tendered had fulfilled all conditions required for its admissibility and urged the court to admit it.

“Strictly speaking, Section 39(1) of the ACJA does not apply to the Federal High Court. It only applies to trial by way of information. This court has summary jurisdiction in respect of federal offences. There is no mandatory provision of the law, not anywhere, that we are required to give them every single document that we intend to use. We only need to give them a summary of what we intend to use at trial. Their objection does not go to admissibility at all,” Keyamo contended.

Former Governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja

He added that non-service of the petition on the defense counsel should not stall the case because they could ask for an adjournment to cross-examine the witness if they were not ready.

Olumide-Fusika rejected Keyamo’s proposition, saying it amounted to the prosecution insisting going in the wrong direction despite the court’s advice.

“The learned prosecution counsel is unrepentantly telling the court to continue to do the wrong thing,” he said.  They have been bringing documents that they had not front-loaded, witnesses they had not listed. Your Lordship should tell him no, we cannot do it.

“He’s now confirming to us that they really don’t want this case to go on because he’s now suggesting an adjournment.  That’s not right. They should be serious with this prosecution,” Olumide-Fusika said.

Justice Idris adjourned till Thursday, March 2, to rule on whether or not to admit the petition in evidence.

The charges against Ladoja and Akanbi border on money-laundering and unlawful conversion and of funds belonging to Oyo State to their personal use.

Among others, Ladoja is accused of removing a sum of £600,000 from state coffers in 2007 and sending it to Bimpe Ladoja, his concubine, who was at the time in London.

The ex-governor is also accused of converting the sum of N42m belonging to the state to his own and subsequently using it to purchase an armored Land Cruiser jeep.

He is also accused of converting the sums of N728,600,000 and N77,850,000 at separate times in 2007 to his own.

The EFCC told the court that Ladoja and Akanbi acted contrary to sections 17(a) and18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and were liable to be punished under Sections 14(1), 16(a) (b) and 18(2) of the same Act.  The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The EFCC had first arraigned Ladoja and Akanbi in 2008, before Justice A.R. Mohammed.

But the defendants objected to the charges against them and challenged the case, over the course of seven years, all the way to the Supreme Court.

The case was reopened last year December before Justice Idris after the apex court dismissed the appeal by the defendants.

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