An attempt by the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Mr Bathelomeu Aguegbobo, to withdraw the criminal charge preferred against the former Chairman of the Branch, Mr Adeshina Ogunlana before a Special Offences Court, Ikeja, has failed.
At exactly 10:25 am when the court was poised to adjourn the trial, Aguegbobo, announced his appearance informing the court that the Branch has commenced a move to resolve the matter out of court as the funds which is the subject matter of the trial belongs to the Branch.
He further told the court that he called Mr Samuel Daji, lead prosecution counsel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on ways to find a way to settle the matter.
He said he was asked by the prosecution counsel to write a letter to the Commission on the Branch’s intention, stressing that he has complied with the advice and the letter has been forwarded to the EFCC office.
“My Lord, I’m very sorry I came late. We held our Branch meeting and we have resolved that we should find a way to resolve this matter. I want to state that the money involved in this matter belongs to the association.
“I have spoken with my learned friend for the prosecution on this and he asked us to write a letter to the Commission on what we intend to do. We have complied and the letter has been dispatched to their office this morning,” he said.
In a swift reaction, Mr Richard Nwankwo, one of the petitioners, debunked what the Branch Chairman said, insisting he is not a party to any move to withdraw the charge.
According to him, the Ikeja Branch of the NBA is not the petitioner, as it was not written in the capacity of the NBA but by individual petitioners.
He told Justice Mojisola Dada that the EFCC has the mandate of the petitioners to continue with the matter before the court.
He frowned at Aguegbobo’s attitude of storming the court and trying to withdraw a charge he was not a part of. He also dismissed the purported meeting where the issue of withdrawal claimed by the NBA Chairman was held, saying none of the petitioners was present at such meeting.
“I’m one of the petitioners in this matter. This matter is not a Branch matter. The Branch has nothing to do with this matter before this honourable court. We are the complainants and we have nothing to do with any withdrawal of this matter,” Nwankwo affirmed.
Earlier, in his evidence-in-chief, when been led by Akin Olatunji, Ogunlana denied payment of N2.8million to one Gbenga Dairo instead of N1.8million.
He said he could not do proper handing over of his financial stewardship to his successor because immediately Dele Oloke, who succeeded him, was declared the winner he was sworn in on the same day, thereby robbing him of the opportunity of conducting the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
He further told the court that expenditure on vehicles’ repairs, generator maintenance, and money spent on ‘Mai Ruwa’ (water hawkers) are part of the money that did not have receipts.
“There are numerous that we used the money for. We paid salary, and premium insurance for two years. We paid for anti-land use law, maintenance of the generating set and salary,” he said.
Ogunlana is standing trial alongside another ex-Chairman of the Branch, Mr Yinka Farounbi and a former Treasurer, Mrs Aderinola Kappo.
They were first arraigned on 22nd May 2019 before Justice Mojisola Dada for allegedly defrauding the association of N21 million. Farounbi served as NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman between 2014 and 2016, with Kappo serving as Treasurer, while Ogunlana served as Chairman from 2016 to 2018.
The trio are jointly charged with conspiracy to steal. Ogunlana is charged with 15 counts of stealing and one count of money laundering, while Farounbi and Kappo are jointly charged with 13 counts of stealing.
The EFCC prosecutor said Farounbi and Kappo allegedly committed the offences from 15th June 2016 to 9th April 2018 in Lagos, while Ogunlana was alleged by the anti-graft commission to have committed the offences from 18th July 2016 to 10th April 2018.