Rashidi Ladoja, laughs last.
Rashidi Ladoja, a former governor of Oyo state was discharged and acquitted today, Friday, February 8, 2019 by a Federal High Court in Lagos, over a N4.7 billion fraud charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Mohammed Idris in his judgment said the evidence brought to the court by the EFCC was “too low on credible evidence.”
He therefore discharged and acquitted the former governor of Oyo state and Waheed Akanbi, who was Oyo State Commissioner for Finance during his administration.
It would be recalled that Ladoja was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with converting N4.7billion from the State’s treasury to his personal use.
He was re-arraigned along with Akanbi on an 11 count charge of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds. Both pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that evidence in the trial closed on Nov. 17, 2018 after Ladoja had given his evidence before the court.
The court then adjourned for the adoption of final addresses.
The prosecutor, Mr Oluwafemi Olabisi urged the court to hold that the prosecution had been able to establish its case against the accused based on evidence adduced.
He argued that the crux of the prosecution’s case centred on money received as proceeds of crime.
According to him, offences of this nature do not give room for acknowledgement of monies taken from government coffers.
He added that the court was enjoined to look at circumstantial evidence in arriving at its decision.
Olabisi urged the court to discountenance evidence adduced by defence witnesses, and hold that the prosecution had been able to establish its case against the accused.
On his part, defence counsel, Mr Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused on the grounds that the prosecution had a weak case incapable of securing any conviction.
“If there is no foundation, the superstructure cannot stand,” he said.
Olumide-Fusika argued that no prosecution witness was able to link the accused with the alleged offences, adding that the prosecution was only concerned with securing a conviction at all cost.
Besides, the defence counsel argued that the statement used by the prosecutor in his written address that “the second defendant in the very least, did conspire to commit the offence” was incapable of establishing his guilt.
He urged the court to be sensitive to evidence adduced as PW2 who testified as having engaged in the sale of the Oyo State shares was never charged.
In all, he urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused as there was no shred of evidence against them, adding that the evidence by prosecution witnesses, even supports the innocence of the accused.
After listening to the submissions of counsel, Justice Idris commended them for seeing the trial to conclusion.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that after the close of prosecution’s case, the accused had opted to file a no case submission before the court, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a case against them.
But in its ruling, the court dismissed the no case submission and held that based on a preponderance of evidence as put forward by the prosecution, there was no doubt that the accused had some explanations to make.
NAN reported that in the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to syphon and launder N4.7 billion from the coffers of Oyo State government.
The EFCC also accused them of converting N1.9 billion belonging to the state for their personal use through the account of a company known as Heritage Apartments Ltd.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the accused retained the money sometime in 2007, in spite of their knowledge that it proceeded from criminal activity.
Ladoja was accused of removing £600,000 pounds from the state coffers in 2007, which he sent to his daughter, Bimpe in London.
In addition, the ex-governor was accused of converting N42 million belonging to the state for his personal use and subsequently used the same to purchase an armoured Land Cruiser.
The EFCC added that Ladoja converted N728 million and N77 million at different times in 2007 for his personal use and transferred the same to Bistrum Investments for the purchase of a property in Ibadan.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 14, 16, 17 (a) and 18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, according to the EFCC.
But today, the judge in his judgment held that the allegations could not be proved and so held that the accused stand discharged and acquitted. (NAN)