The ongoing trial of two former chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ikeja Branch, Lagos, Adesina Ogunlana and Yinka Farounbi, for an alleged N20.1m fraud before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos continued on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, with a prosecution witness, Thelma Coco-Bassey, further revealing how the defendants diverted the Association’s funds.
Both Ogunlana and Farounbi were arraigned alongside Kappo Aderinola, a former Treasurer of the NBA, Ikeja branch, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, on a 30-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit felony, money laundering and stealing to the tune of N20,100,000.00 property of the NBA.
The second and third defendants, Farounbi and Aderinola, who were signatories to the accounts of the NBA, Ikeja branch, allegedly signed some cheques at different times without appropriate authorisation.
They also allegedly gave the cheques to the first defendant, Ogunlana, to cash.
At Wednesday’s sitting, Coco-Bassey, who is the fourth prosecution witness, PW4, told the court that the first defendant, Ogunlana, lavished the Association’s funds and habitually carried lots of cash in his car.
Led in evidence by counsel for the EFCC, Samuel Daji, the PW4, who was the Treasurer during Ogunlana’s tenure, said: “Throughout the administration of Mr. Ogunlana as the Chairman of my branch, I never knew how monies belonging to the Association were spent and for what purposes.
“It was Mr. Ogunlana who was doing everything and anything without informing the Exco.
“I did not know how he got money or how he spent the money belonging to the Association.”
Coco-Bassey, who was also the Financial Secretary during Farounbi’s tenure, further told the court that she was prevented from carrying out her duties, while she was the Treasurer in the administration of Ogunlana.
She further told the court that, when she assumed the position of Treasurer, the third defendant, Kappo, refused to hand-over cheques and other financial instruments in her possession to her as her successor.
According to her, when she informed and involved Ogunlana, who was the Chairman about Kappo’s refusal to hand-over documents to her, he never made any efforts to correct her.
“All my efforts to get Mr. Ogunlana to persuade Kappo to hand-over documents to me proved abortive and an exco meeting was held to that effect in November 2017,” she added.
In her further evidence, the witness said throughout Ogunlana’s tenure, the excos rarely held meetings until November 2017 when he called for a meeting that was attended by almost all the officers.
She said: “At the meeting, Ogunlana informed the exco that he had asked Kappo to hand-over the cheque books to him and that he would have custody of the cheque books.
“When he called for reactions from members of the exco, the Vice-Chairman under him, Mrs. Caroline Ibharunaefe, told him it was not right.
“It was at the meeting that Mr. Ajbola Akinwale, who was the Public Relations Officer (PRO), opened Section 7(5) of the NBA Constitution, and read it aloud and told Ogunlana to leave all the cheque books to me.
“Instead of doing the right thing, Mr. Ogunlana said the by-laws that Akinwale read, unfortunately, gave him a wide range of powers to do anything as Chairman.”
The witness said though she was always available for duty, cheque books or any financial instruments were not entrusted in her care and Ogunlana never discussed finances with members of the executive.
Coco-Bassey, while being cross-examined by Akinola Olatunji, counsel for Ogunlana, said she joined the NBA Ikeja branch in 2009, adding that, though she was the treasurer, Ogunlana kept her in the dark about the finances of the organisation.
She also denied levying the allegations against Ogunlana due to previous animosity between them.
Coco-Bassey, under cross-examination by Farounbi’s lawyer, Olu Daramola, SAN, further revealed how she tried to call attention of senior members to the fraudulent financial activities in the association.
She said: “I have memos and documents to show that during Farounbi’s tenure there was financial impropriety.
“I wrote letters to past chairmen who are elders of the Bar, drawing their attention to fraudulent activities in the Association.
“Monies were also not accounted for by the second defendant during his regime.
“I can give many examples.”
Justice Dada thereafter, adjourned the case to October 21, 22 and 23, 2019 for continuation of trial.