The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has rejected the option of a plea bargain which a former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Olajumoke Akinjide, is seeking.
Akinjide was charged with an alleged fraud of N650m, but she had indicated her intention to enter into a plea bargain with the anti-graft agency.
Her lawyer, Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), told the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday that arrangement was being made for a refund of the N650m.
The EFCC had, on January 16, 2018, arraigned Akinjide and two others for allegedly receiving N650m cash from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities, adding that Akinjide and others handled the N650m cash without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Those charged along with Akinjide were Senator Ayo Adeseun and Olanrewaju Otiti. The trio, however, pleaded not guilty to the 24 charges filed against them.
The court had fixed Tuesday (today) for commencement of trial. But when the case was called on Tuesday, Akinjide’s lawyer, Ayorinde, told the presiding judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, that his client intended to explore an amicable settlement of the case with the EFCC.
He said he had discussed his client’s intention with the counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, and pleaded that an adjournment be granted to allow the parties to discuss.
He said, “This matter is principally about the campaign funds of the 2015 elections in Oyo State and the people in the dock now were the principal hands that handled the funds.
“Consequently, the PDP in Oyo State has taken a decision to refund the total sum N650m.
“In the light of the above, before the trial commences full-blown, we are imploring the court to allow parties to explore possible amicable settlement.”
The EFCC prosecutor, Oyedepo, confirmed that Ayorinde had approached him for settlement. He, however, emphasised that the case before the court was not merely about the funds, as the EFCC had already recovered the N650m.
He said the case before the court was rather about the nature of the funds and the manner the defendants handled them.
Oyedepo said, “I confirm that the learned Senior Advocate had a brief discussion with me and the prosecuting team this morning.
“I will just like to straighten the issue by saying that the matter before the court is not principally about the campaign funds. If it is about the PDP (campaign) funds, Your Lordship will not find us before this court.
“The allegation is that the defendants dealt with proceeds of unlawful activities.
“I also confirm that the commission has recovered the sum of N650m, not from the chieftains and principal members of the PDP but from the first defendant (Akinjide).
“Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows parties to discuss. So, in view of the fact that the learned Senior Advocate applied for discussion pursuant to Section 270, we will not be objecting to his application for a short adjournment to enable us to discuss settlement in line with the Act.”
Oyedepo urged the court to note that the prosecution was ready to open its case as it had a witness in court.
Counsel for the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Michale Lana and Akinola Oladeji, respectively, said though they were not privy to the arrangment for settlement, they would not oppose the prayer for an adjournment.
Consequently, Justice Hassan adjourned the matter till February 22 to allow the parties to discuss “in line with Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which allows parties to explore plea bargain.”