The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Thursday rejected an offer for an out-of-court settlement by a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, who was accused of money laundering.
Akinjide was charged along with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large, a former Senator Ayo Adeseun and a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.
They were accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, and without going through a financial institution.
Justice Muslim had adjourned to enable parties conclude the settlement talks after Akinjide’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) reported that the N650million had been returned.
Thursday, EFCC’s lawyer Nnaemeka Omenwa, who stood in for Rotimi Oyedepo, said he was instructed to turn down the 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). Based on that, we’re ready to go on with the trial, subject to your Lordship’s overriding convenience,” he said.
But defence counsel Ayorinde and Michael Lana (for second defendant) accused Oyedepo of a breach of agreement.
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.
“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,” Ayorinde said.
Lana accused EFCC 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 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 was made to us that we should withdraw a civil suit we filed. Oyedepo is the first defendant in the suit.
“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,” Lana said.
But, Omenwa denied that the case was politically motivated, adding that there was no proof to support the claims against Oyedepo.
“The EFCC is not a political party. We’re an independent organisation and are not out to witch-hunt anybody.
“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,” he said.
In short ruling, Justice Hassan said since settlement talks had “broken down,” EFCC was at liberty to call its witness.
Trial began immediately with Omenwa calling the first witness, a banker Mrs Kehinde Adeniyi, who said she is the Head of Customer Relations at her bank’s Dugbe, Ibadan branch. She said she knew Akinjide and Adeseun.
Asked to narrate her connection with them, she said: “On March 26, 2015, 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 Hillux van to pick up the cash in a box.”
The receipt of payment was tendered in evidence.
The witness said under cross examination by Chief Ayorinde that she made three statements at the EFCC, which were also tendered in evidence.
Adeniyi said she merely carried out instructions, 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.
Justice Hassan adjourned until March 8 and 9 for continuation of trial.