A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos on Friday refused Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) request to issue a warrant of arrest for a former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja as appeared in the court.
It could be recalled that at the last adjourned date, November 21, the EFCC had urged the court to issue a bench warrant against Ladoja for failing to appear in court, to answer to a N4.7 billion money laundering charges preferred against him.
Bolaji Onilenla, Ladoja’s counsel, in his reactions to application for a warrant of arrest, had told the court that he was not aware that business of the day was for arraignment.
He had argued that this was so because there was a pending appeal before Supreme Court, even as he informed the court that after the decision of Court of Appeal, Ladoja had changed his counsel, and then, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.
The counsel said that neither the accused nor their counsel was served with any court summons to appear in court, even as he challenged prosecutorial powers of the prosecutor on grounds that the fiat to prosecute was exclusively given to Fetus Keyamo.
He said that such a fiat could not be transferred to any other person in his chambers, disclosing that the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed Ladoja’s appeal pursuant to Order 6; Rule 3 of the Procedure Rules, but that the application had been filed to restore the appeal.
He added that to continue with the trial would amount to showing disrespect to the apex court and it would be an infringement on the rights of the accused.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, delivering his ruling on the issue on Friday, held that he would not make any orders as to arrest since the accused was present in court.
The judge also turned down the request of defence counsel for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal challenging the prosecutorial powers of the commission under the Money Laundering Act.
According to the judge, the request was against provisions of Section 306 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which allows speedy hearing of criminal cases.
Similarly, Justice Idris also dismissed objection of defence counsel, challenging the appearance of the prosecution’s counsel, Olabisi Oluwayemi (from Festus Keyamo’s chambers).
The court, thereafter, fixed December 14 for arraignment.
The EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned Ladoja along with his former aide, Waheed Akanbi, before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving atLagos 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.
EFCC 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 at the trial court, and had urged the court to quash them but 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 judgment 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 judgment, which was unanimously adopted by two other justices, had held that the EFCC had statutory powers to prosecute under Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004.
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