By Bartholomew Madukwe
A former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Olajumoke Akinjide, who is standing trial over alleged N650 million money laundering charge, on Tuesday, told a Federal High Court that they were in the process of engaging in “out-of-court settlement” with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Akinjide’s lawyer, Mr Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), told the court that there was no point wasting the time and resources of the court since the sum contained in the charge had already been refunded.
He said: “My Lord, the charge before this court is essentially in relation to the PDP campaign funds for the 2015 elections in Oyo State. Before trial commenced, the defendants, who were chieftains of the PDP in Oyo at the time, acting on the collective decision of the party, decided to refund the monies mentioned in the charge.
“I have had talks with the lead counsel for the prosecution and we think it wise not to subject this matter to further adjudication so as not to waste the time and resources of the court. In that light, I have suggested that all counsel meet to look at the way forward on this charge, especially considering the fact that the monies complained of has already been refunded. My application, therefore, is that this court adjourns further hearing pending the outcome of discussion by both counsel’’.
Responding, the Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, confirmed the position as suggested by Ayorinde.
Saying that the allegations against the accused do not principally bother on campaign funds, but on “dealings with proceeds of unlawful activity.
Oyedepo confirmed to the court that the EFCC had recovered the sum of N650 million, but added that the money was recovered from the first accused and not from chieftains or principal members of the PDP.
Citing Sections 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Oyedepo submitted that its provisions allow for such “settlement discussions” by both parties.
He told the court that the prosecution was not opposed to “discussion” and urged the court to
grant the adjournment.
Oyedepo further urged the court to place on record the fact that his witness had been present in court since the last adjourned date in preparation for trial.
The former minister and two others are facing charges bordering on a N650 million money laundering brought against them by EFCC.
The anti-graft agency had slammed a 24-count charge of money laundering on Akinjide, Sen. Ayo Adeseun and a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Olarewaju Otti.
Also listed in the charge is a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, who is said to be “at large”.
After listening to parties, the trial judge, Justice Sule Hassan granted an adjournment to enable them explore out-of-court settlement.
In his ruling, Justice Hassan held that in line with the provisions of Sections 270 of the ACJA which allows plea bargain and as parties are not adverse to it, he adjourned the case until Feb. 22 for hearing.
“The earlier date of Feb. 14 is vacated and the defendants are to continue with their bails,” the judge said.