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#EndSARS protesters’ lawyer, NBA chief open defence in N21m ‘fraud trial’

NEWSMAN, Lagos – A Lagos States Special Offences Court in Ikeja will on January 20, 21 and 22 hear the defence of the former Ikeja branch Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Adesina Ogunlana and two others, in an alleged N21million fraud and stealing charge.

Ogunlana, counsel to #EndSARS protesters at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and the Lekki Toll Gate Shootings is standing trial alongside another ex-chairman of the branch, Yinka Farounbi and a former treasurer, Aderinola Kappo.

They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Mojisola Dada for allegedly defrauding the association of N20million on May 22, 2019.

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.

EFCC counsel S. O. Daji said Farounbi and Kappo allegedly committed the offences from June 15, 2016 to April 9, 2018 in Lagos, while Ogunlana allegedly committed the offences from July 18, 2016 to April 10, 2018.

“Farounbi and Kappo on 13 occasions without authorisation and in order to facilitate the stealing of N20million funds belonging to the Ikeja branch of the NBA issued cheques to Ogunlana.

“The cheques were paid into Ogunlana’s bank account No. 2004528818 with First Bank PLC during his tenure as chairman of NBA Ikeja branch.

“He dishonestly converted the funds to his personal use,” Daji said.

The prosecutor added: “Sometime in 2017, Ogunlana converted to his own use N1million out of N2.8million purportedly paid to Brand in Demand Ltd for the NBA Ikeja branch.

“Farounbi and Kappo on 13 occasions without authorisation and in order to facilitate the stealing of N20million funds belonging to the Ikeja branch of the NBA issued cheques to Ogunlana.

“The cheques were paid into Ogunlana’s bank account No. 2004528818 with First Bank PLC during his tenure as chairman of NBA Ikeja branch.

“In order to disguise the legal origin of the money, he informed Adegoke Dairo of Brand in Demand Ltd to issue him an invoice/receipt No. 82871 as purported payment for the NBA Ikeja branch”.

He said the offences contravened sections 278, 285(1), 330 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.

The court adjourned till June 3, 2019 for full trial to begin, having admitted the three defendants to bail.

On June 3, the first prosecution witness, PW1, Daniel Okoye, alleged that Ogunlana diverted NBA funds into his use. He also told the court how the second and third defendants, Farounbi and Aderinola, signed multiple cheques in favour of the first defendant, Ogunlana and how he (Ogunlana) used the same to pay off personal debts.

Led in evidence by Samuel Daji, the prosecution counsel, Okoye, a lawyer, further told the court that the major account of the association with WEMA Bank PLC was still being operated by the second and third defendants “after their tenure had expired, contrary to the succinct provisions of the uniform by-laws of the branches 2015, which made it mandatory that all officers of the branch must handover to their successors within seven days of the expiration of their tenure.

“This is tantamount to professional misconduct under NBA by-laws”.

Second prosecution witness (PW2), Olubunmi Odeniyi, the provost of the NBA, Ikeja branch, told the court that during his investigation, he discovered that insurance premiums paid by members of the branch to cover their life insurance policy were not remitted to any insurance company as at the time of his investigation, The Nation reported.

Another prosecution’s witness, Coco-Bassey, who served as the branch’s treasurer during Ogunlana’s tenure and financial secretary during Farounbi’s tenure, testified that the defendants engaged in financial impropriety. The witness added that “at no time did the executives of NBA Ikeja branch approve any expenditure; the defendants always did things without the executives knowing”.

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