Adewale Atanda, a prosecution witness, on Thursday told a federal high court in Lagos that Rashidi Ladoja (pictured left), former governor of Oyo state, purchased 22 cars for lawmakers in 2005.
The witness, who served Ladoja as senior special executive assistant, gave the evidence at the resumed trial of the ex governor and his aide, Waheed Akanbi, charged with N4.7 billion fraud.
The accused are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Led in evidence by Oluwafemi Olabisi, the prosecutor, the witness told the court that Ladoja purchased the said vehicles for the lawmakers, in order to win their loyalty and to evade impeachment in 2005.
The witness said out of the 22 cars purchased by the ex governor, he was only able to give out 14, as that represented the number of lawmakers whose loyalty he was able to secure.
Atanda explained that the Oyo state house of assembly had 32 lawmakers, and for Ladoja to have stopped his impeachment, he required the votes of 22 members.
The witness, who claimed to have met Ladoja back in the year 2000 when he (Atanda) was vying for a senatorial seat, gave a detailed narration of how the administration of Ladoja ran into trouble after he had become governor.
“Well, I don’t know exactly how it started but it appeared as if there was a rift between members of the Oyo state house of assembly on one hand, and some political actors in the state,” he said.
“Very many attempts were made to remove Sen Ladoja from office; various petitions were written and at the end of the day, an impeachment process was set in motion.
“Oyo State has about 32 members of the house of assembly and to successfully impeach the governor, it would require two-thirds majority support of the members of the house of assembly; that will be about 22 members.
“In order to secure the loyalty of these 22 members of the house, certain promises were made by different political actors, and one of such was that loyal members would be given vehicles.
“In the course of all these, I had discussion with Sen Ladoja and explained to him that it was important that his promises be kept.
“At the material time, it was rather impossible to buy these vehicles because they were not included in the budget for the year, so, we started looking for alternative ways to accommodate the request.”
Atanda said he eventually obtained a loan of N80 million from Wema Bank with his personal assets to assist Ladoja.
He said the drivers of Oyo government collected the vehicles from various dealers after they were bought, and they were delivered to the government house in Ibadan.
“In spite of this, I think, by December 2005, the governor was impeached from office,” he said
He said after he was impeached, Ladoja and his allies, including the 14 lawmakers loyal to him fled and regrouped in Lagos.
He said in Lagos, Ladoja continued to take responsibility for the welfare of the lawmakers, who demanded to be paid a monthly income of one million naira each after their salaries and allowances had been stopped.
He added that Ladoja also assembled a team of lawyers, who demanded a fee of N370 million to challenge the impeachment up to the supreme court.
EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned the accused on a 10-count charge of conspiring to convert property and resources derived from an alleged illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The EFCC also alleged that Ladoja used N42 million out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about 600,000 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja in London.
Ladoja and Akanbi, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were allowed to continue on their earlier bail terms.
The judge adjourned the case to March 27, for Atanda to continue his evidence.