The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has 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 alongside 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 N650 million, 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 Hassan had adjourned to enable parties conclude the settlement talks after Akinjide’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) reported that the N650 million had been returned.
Yesterday, 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 of breaching an agreement reached by parties with regards to the settlement, saying it amounted to a “betrayal”.
“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 his ruling, Justice Hassan said since settlement talks had “broken down,” EFCC was at liberty to call its witness.