The Curious Case of Adeyemi Ikuforiji By Debo Adejugbe
In the face of muted searchlight shone on Rotimi Amaechi’s Chief Judge’s game in Rivers, it is very important to examine the corruption case hanging on the neck of the Lagos State House of Assembly’s Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji amid the conspiratorial silence that has accompanied it. Corruption, in all its form is detestable and it shouldn’t be condoned irrespective of who it involves.
From Diezani Alison-Madueke, Goddey Orubebe to Stella Oduah or Dimeji Bankole, Mohammed Adoke to Sule Lamido, exists a common denominator where an offense bordering on corruption has been committed. How the government reacts, however, is extremely predictable depending on whose lap the goodies fall on. But my major observation is that the people try to classify into different categories also.
Let’s take for example the reaction to Ikuforiji’s corruption case and that of Oduah’s BMWgate; they were two completely different reactions, yet the crimes basically fall into the same category. I understand that there are several reasons why this is so but the temptation is to ask if we are really against corruption or we are only interested when it involves the Presidency/PDP. No! Don’t crucify me yet, I’ll get into it.
The case has been a lengthy one, even by Nigerian standard despite the array of exhibits and evidences entered by the EFCC. Ikuforiji was originally arraigned alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, in December 2011 and it has witnessed several incomprehensible delays ranging from the trial judge opting out of the case for ‘undisclosed reasons’; a trial judge closing in on retirement taking up the case despite meaning the case would have to start all over again if he stepped down from the bench; to the prosecution – EFCC – failing to attend court proceedings, thereby forcing an adjournment each time that happened.
Some of the revelations that the case has thrown up involves Ikuforiji giving cash payments to Atoyebi for onward remittance to his (Speaker) account, disbursal of several jamboree payments within the legislative chambers and signing of various sums of money under shady circumstances. The EFCC, even as shoddy as they can be, has been able to back up these payments with cash registers from the Assembly plus the statements of Ikuforiji, Atoyebi and some members of the House forming part of their evidence.
In his defense, Ikuforiji had, as part of his statement, said that cash payments had been the “tradition” of the assembly since he became the Speaker of the House and that Atoyebi “properly delivered” the money to him. That said, the EFCC alleged that between April, 2010 and July, 2011, Ikuforiji accepted cash payments totaling N273.303 million from the assembly without going through a financial institution and also used his position to fleece around N500million of House funds, which were said to have contravened Section 18(a) of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011.
He had pleaded not guilty and the case continues even though he hasn’t disputed that he collected the money or authorized Atoyebi and the Accounts Officer of the House to carry out the transactions
The court is to determine, among other things, if these monies that Atoyebi “properly delivered” 57 times from the House coffers to Ikuforiji – according to his own testimony – were within the ambit of the permissible amounts in the Money Laundering Act and above all, determine if Mr. Ikuforiji is not guilty of siphoning money meant for House business into private accounts. They have a compelling case and Ikuforiji’s defense has to be compelling enough if he has to beat these charges. Also compelling is how he was able to meet his N1billion bail bond in July this year.
One of the curious highlight of this case is the NBA’s unreserved support for Ikuforiji. When Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, the chairman of the Ikeja branch of the NBA presented the Speaker with an award of ‘Most Friendly Supporter of NBA’ in June 2013, he made some weird statements that couldn’t have been a mistake from someone who understands how the law works.
Mr. Ubani said of a case instituted by EFCC before a court of competent jurisdiction: “We in the NBA are solidly behind you. Whatever you are undergoing now is a political scheme. But God will vindicate you.” No one has come out to say Ubani wasn’t speaking for the NBA or that he was misquoted. If a case that hasn’t been determined can be dismissed outright by a top NBA member, it obviously means they see corruption as a necessity for our democracy. Why they didn’t give Stella Oduah and Sule Lamido the same support is however intriguing.
And as expected of the Nigerian political landscape, some protests exactly like the one used in supporting Stella Oduah were staged for the embattled Speaker and in all of these, it is important to note that he hasn’t voluntarily stepped down, been threatened with impeachment or asked to do so by the leaders of his party despite these weighty allegations. In fact, Governor Fashola, a man who easily calculated the number of armoured vehicle that could be bought with OduahGate money hasn’t as much offered any opinion that I know of on the case.
Corruption in Nigeria has several complexions and depending on who is looking at it, we tend to learn of new philosophical ways to defend or brush it off. Tribal and party sentiments seem to be willing tools used freely to explain it all away. If a man who has been in the legislature for such a long time finds it hard to understand that the House is tainted with him at the helm; we would have expected the leadership of his party to know better. But, No!
The next point of call for Adeyemi Ikuforiji is the Lagos Government House in Alausa in 2015. I recognize his right to contest and be voted for, but I will never understand why we wanted Stella Oduah gone (because of the weight of allegation and evidence) but we keep treating Ikuforiji as a sacred cow that mustn’t be sacrificed to achieve a cleaner and more transparent legislature – and probably, Opposition.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the curious case of Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji. A man who has been swimming in corruption cases since 2011 but continuously slip under the radar of anti-corruption agitators.
Debo Adejugbe is a trained Telecommunications/Electronics Engineer and a certified IT professional living in Lagos. Dad to amazing Hailey and an advocate against Sexual and Domestic Abuses. Debo has political sympathy for the Labour Party. He tweets from @deboadejugbe
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