By Odunayo Abiodun
March 24, 2010 02:34AM
Justice Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, has fixed March 30, 2010 to deliver ruling over the application by the former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, asking the court to quash the amended charges levied against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Allegations against defendants
Mr. Ladoja, alongside Waheed Akanbi, his former aide, are in court on account of allegations levied by the prosecution stating that the defendants conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the properties and resources. The defendants were accused of committing fraud in the sum of N1, 932, 940, 32. 48. They were alleged to have used as conduit pipe a company, Bistrumm Investment, to siphon the sum of N77. 8 million for the purpose of purchasing a building for him, while Mr. Ladoja was also alleged to have fraudulently transferred a sum of 600,000 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja, amongst other allegations.

Counsel adopt written addresses
At the resumed hearing, the counsel in the matter, Wole Olanipekun for Mr. Ladoja, and Vitalis Amaotu for the commission, adopted their written address, on the application by Mr. Ladoja.

In the application filed on behalf of Mr. Ladoja by his counsel, Wole Olanipekun, the applicant urged the court to dismiss the charges levied against him on the ground that the court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on the counts as framed.

Mr. Olanipekun argued that the allegations against the applicant are vague and do not link him with the commission of any crime to warrant his arraignment under any written law. He also contended that the proof-of-evidence placed before the court by the prosecution has no connection with the charge and that it does not disclosed any prima facie case against the applicant.

Star witness is a tainted witness
Speaking on the issue of proof-of-evidence, Mr. Olanipekun said it is wrong for the prosecution to use the same proof-of-evidence for both the old and amended charge. He also noted that the evidence of the star witness (Adewale Atanda) in the old charge was given while he was an accused person, noting that it is wrong for the prosecution to use Mr. Atanda as a witness against Mr. Ladoja.

Previously, Mr. Atanda was charged along with the defendants in the initial charges preferred against the defendants. The commission had on March 25, 2009, re-arraigned Mr. Ladoja alongside Mr. Akanbi, based on an amended charge, as opposed to the initial charge wherein Mr. Atanda, a the former commissioner of finance with Oyo State, was charged along with the duo.

The counsel further noted that Section 27(3) of the evidence act does not permit the court to admit such evidence, from a person classified as a tainted witness. 'Adewale Atanda remains an accused person and a tainted witness in as much as the EFCC is relying on his statement', he said.

Mr. Olanipekun further observed that the prosecution has failed to appreciate Section 14(1) of the money laundering act upon which his client was charged to court. He said the section only talked about offences relating to narcotic drugs and other substances.

He also noted that if the amended charge has truly supplanted the original charge, then, there is no proof of evidence before the court.

EFCC responds
In his response, EFCC's counsel, Vitalis Amaotu, urged the court to dismiss the application of the applicant. He stated that a look at the applicant's reply to the prosecution's submission shows that the applicant re-argued his case.

He noted that the offence alleged to have been committed by the 1st defendant amounted to an offence at the time the offence was committed and that the charges against him was brought under an existing law.

Mr. Amaotu maintained that the amended charge has supplanted the old charge. According to him, the star witness (Mr. Atanda) is not an accused before the court since the prosecution has withdrawn the charge against him.