A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday refused to issue a warrant for the arrest a former Governor of Oyo state, Mr. Rasheed Ladoja, following his presence in court.
At the last adjourned date on Nov. 21, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had urged the Court to issue a bench warrant against Ladoja for failing to appear in court, to answer a N4.7bn money laundering charges against him.
Reacting to the application for a warrant, counsel to Ladoja, Mr Bolaji Onilenla had told the court that he was not aware that the business of the day was for the arraignment.
He had argued that this was so, because there was a pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
He informed the court that after the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ladoja had changed his counsel, and then, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
He stated that neither the accused nor their counsels were served with any court summons to appear in court.
Onilenla had also challenged the prosecutorial powers of the prosecutor on the grounds that the fiat to prosecute was exclusively given to Fetus Keyamo.
He added that such fiat could not be transferred to any other person in his chambers.
He also disclosed 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.
Delivering his ruling on the issue on Friday, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, 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 the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which allows speedy hearing of criminal cases.
Similarly, Justice Idris also dismissed the objection of defence counsel, challenging the appearance of the prosecution’s counsel, Olabisi Oluwayemi (from Festus Keyamo’s chambers).
The court thereafter, fixed Dec. 14 for arraignment.
The EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned Ladoja along with his former aide, Chief Waheed Akanbi, before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving at the Lagos 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.
The anti-graft agency 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 the charges.
The lower court had refused the prayer to quash the charges.
Dissatisfied, Ladoja appealed against the decision of the Federal High Court.
But, the Appellate Court in its judgement 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 judgement which was unanimously adopted by two other justices, had held that the EFCC had statutory powers to prosecute under Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004