The trial of a former Governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, and one of his aides Waheed Akanbi, on criminal charges of alleged N4.7 billion fraud preferred against them, on Tuesday ended after 10 years of legal battle at a Federal High Court Lagos.
The trial ended before Justice Mohammed Idris, with Ladoja mounting the witness box to give evidence in his trial.
Mr Ladoja was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with converting N4.7 billion from the state’s treasury, to his personal use.
He was re-arraigned along with Akanbi, his former commissioner for Finance, on 11-count charge of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.
They had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were granted bail.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that after the close of prosecution’s case, the accused had opted to file a no case submission before the court, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
In its ruling, the court had dismissed the no case submission, holding that based on a preponderance of evidence as put forward by prosecution, there was no doubt that the accused had some explanations to make.
The court had then ordered the defence to open its defence.
NAN reports that defence has since begun its case and called witnesses.
On Tuesday in his lead evidence, Ladoja denied authorizing the sale of Oyo State shares at discounted prices.
He said that the decision to sell the shares were taken by the State Executive Council, upon his return to office on December 11, 2006, following the nullification of his impeachment by the Supreme Court.
He added that proceeds generated from the sale of the shares were deployed towards execution of projects.
“On our return to office, we found out that most of the items we had in our budget in 2006 were not touched.
“We were then looking for money and the second defendant, who was the commissioner of finance, was saddled with the responsibility of looking for the money; he then came up with the idea of selling the shares.
“We later called functionaries at the Ministry of Commerce, but they told us that the shares have been tied down to the purchase of rice.
“We then found a way of freeing the shares and at that point, the second defendant made his submissions to the State Executive Council on the sale of the shares and it was approved.
“A memo was later raised by the commissioner of finance and I approved it; I had no dealings with either the Portfolio Manager, Fountain Securities Ltd or its Managing Director, Chief Kola Daisi,” he said.
Mr Ladoja added that he was not privy to the total amount of money that was realised from the sale of shares, neither did he personally benefit from it.
He said: “It is for the officials to follow up with the revenue; my job stopped at the point of approving the sale of the shares.
“The revenue generated from the sale of the shares were expended on certain projects,” he said.
During cross-examination by the prosecutor, Olabisi Oluwafemi, the accused said that he declared his assets on assumption of office in 2003.
He added that the sold shares were purchased during his tenure as governor of Oyo State.
After cross examination, the trial came to a close.
Justice Mohammed Idris has fixed Jan. 18, 2019, for parties to adopt their final written addresses.
NAN reports that after adoption of final addresses in the case, judgment is expected to be delivered.
Mr Ladoja was first arraigned in 2008.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to siphon and launder N4.7 billion from the coffers of Oyo State Government.
The EFCC also accused them of converting N1.9 billion belonging to the state for their personal use through the account of a company known as Heritage Apartments Ltd.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the accused retained the money sometime in 2007, in spite of their knowledge that it was proceeds from a criminal activity.
Mr Ladoja was accused of removing 600,000 pounds from the state coffers in 2007 and sent to his daughter, Bimpe, in London.
In addition, the ex-governor was accused of converting N42 million belonging to the state to his personal use and subsequently used same to purchase an armored Land Cruiser.
The EFCC added that Ladoja converted N728 million and N77 million at different times in 2007 to his personal use and transferred same to Bistrum Investments for the purchase of a property in Ibadan.
The offences contravene the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, according to the EFCC.