The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned the Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, Bamidele Oloyelogun, and two others before the state High Court in Akure, over alleged N2.4 million fraud belonging to the Assembly.
Their arraignment followed the ruling by an Akure High Court that it has jurisdiction over the trial.
Consequently, the three lawmakers and one civil servant were arraigned before Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye for the alleged fraud sequel to the dismissal of the preliminary objection filed against their trial by the EFCC.
The fund (N2.4 million) was meant for a seminar, which the lawmakers and the civil servant were meant to attend, but didn’t.
The two others arraigned on a two-count charge of fraud, alongside the Speaker, were Felemu Bankole (Akoko South-West Constituency 2), and a civil servant, Segun Oyadeyi Bankole.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the allegations levelled against them.
At the commencement of the trial, the counsel to EFCC, Kingsley Kudus, asked the court to remand the defendants at the Olokuta Correctional Facility.
But reacting, counsel to the defendants, Femi Emodamore, asked the court to strike out EFCC’s prayer for remand, arguing that the administrative bail application on the defendants was still active.
Emodamore said that the second defendant (Oleyelogun) was having a health challenge that needed urgent medical attention.
He equally asked the court to caution the nominal complainant (former Deputy Speaker, Iroju Ogundeji) in the case for allegedly sending messages to the Speaker in an attempt to annoy him.
According to him, “If Ogundeji did not desist from such action, he would be prosecuted as his actions towards the Speaker is against the law.”
In his ruling, Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye asked the defendants to enjoy their administrative bail till the next hearing date.
Justice Adebusoye, therefore, adjourned the case till May 18 for a proper hearing of the trial.
Recall that when the case came up for hearing in February, the lawmakers argued that EFCC lacked the power to prosecute offences affecting the finances and assets of the state as there exists a law enacted by the Assembly to tackle corruption allegations in the state.
The defendants in the preliminary objection filed to the EFCC charges by their counsel, Mr Femi Emodamori, asked the court to decline jurisdiction and strike out the charges against them because the EFCC has no right to prosecute them as the assets they were facing trial for belonged to the state.
Emodamore said the EFCC has no right to prosecute the defendants for alleged corruption in view of the State Public Complaint Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption Commission Law passed into law and signed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in January 2022.
But the counsel to the EFCC then, Mr Fredrick Dibang, said that the court has jurisdiction because the state law enacted by the state assembly is contrary to the acts of the National Assembly that establish EFCC and once there is a conflict between the law of a state and that of the National Assembly, the law of the state is suspended.
Dibang said the Assembly passed the law with the intention of frustrating the trial of the lawmakers and the civil servant for the alleged abuse of office and corruption.
However, in his ruling, Justice Adebusoye put the state law in abeyance and held that the EFCC has the power to investigate and prosecute the lawmakers for the alleged fraud, which they were charged with.
Adebusoye said: “The offences against the defendants are not state offences promulgated by the state legislation but a federal offence, having being promulgated by the National Assembly, though relates to finances of Ondo State.
“Without wasting the time of this court, it settles that the complainant is empowered to investigate and prosecute the three defendants on the two counts charge as stated in the information file, being federal offences and even though the alleged ones involved belong to the Ondo state government.”
The judge, therefore, dismissed the preliminary objection as filed by the defendants and assumed jurisdiction to adjudicate on this matter.
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