By G9ija

The trial of former Oyo State Governor Rashidi Ladoja was aborted Tuesday after Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos insisted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must comply with the law.

Eight years after he was first arraigned, EFCC re-arraigned Ladoja for allegedly converting N4.7billion from the state treasury to his personal use.

He was charged along with Waheed Akanbi on eight counts of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.

Prosecution counsel Femi Olabisi called his first witness, an EFCC investigator, Abdullahi Lawal.

As the operative was about to begin his testimony, Ladoja’s lawyer Bolaji Onilenle and Akanbi’s lawyer Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika objected to Lawal’s testimony on the basis that he was not listed as a prosecution witness.

Onilenle said: “His name is not on the list of witnesses. We’re being taken by surprise. Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 mandates the prosecution to make a list of witnesses available to defendants.”

Olumide-Fusika also objected for the same reasons, saying they had no idea what the witness was going to say and was not prepared to cross-examine him.

“EFCC ought to be ready before bringing us to court, not to start putting their house in order after arraignment. They must be ready before arraignment,” he said.

Olabisi, who apologised for the commission’s lack of adequate preparation, said the case was prepared before the ACJA came into effect.

He sought for more time to “put his house in order”, including getting his witnesses to prepare their statements.

He asked that the dates previously fixed for the trial, including today and tomorrow, be vacated so he could have more time to prepare.

Adebisi said some of his witnesses were in Abuja, Kaduna and Port Harcourt, so he would need enough time to prepare their witness statements.

Although the defence counsel said Lawal could go on to testify to save time while EFCC updates its list of witnesses later, Justice Mohammed Idris said it would be better for the prosecution to comply with the law.

He said: “Section 379 is mandatory. We’ll go with speed but in accordance with the law. Let’s do it within the ambit of the law. Let’s not overlook the issue and proceed.

“The prosecution should ensure that a summary of the issues and list of witnesses are made available to the defence before trial commences.”

Ladoja was first arraigned before Justice A.R. Mohammed in 2008, but he objected to the charge.

He subsequently obtained a stay of proceedings after filing an interlocutory appeal, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The EFCC accused Ladoja and Akanbi of converting N1,932,940,032.48 belonging to Oyo to their personal use through the Guaranty Trust Bank account of a company, Heritage Apartments Limited despite knowing that it was proceed of crime.

The prosecution said Ladoja removed £600,000 (about N240, 219,945) from the state coffers in 2007 and sent it to Bimpe Ladoja in London.

Ladoja also allegedly bought an armoured Land Cruiser jeep with N42million for himself using public funds.

EFCC said he converted N728, 600,000 and another N77,850,000 at different times in 2007, and allegedly transferred N77, 850,000 to Bistrum Investments, which he nominated to help him purchase a property named Quarter 361 in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.

The alleged offence contravenes sections 17(a) and18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, punishable under sections 14(1), 16(a) (b) and 18(2).

Ladoja and Akanbi pleaded not guilty.

Justice Idris adjourned until March 1 for trial.

Source independentnig