The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and a senior lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) for alleged bribery and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The judge and the senior lawyer were arraigned on a 30-count charge before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.
The charges were read to them after Justice Oshodi ordered them to move from the court gallery into the dock.
“Unfortunately, you have to be in the dock,” Justice Oshodi told them.
The defendants were asked by the court’s registrar if they understood English language, to which they answered in the affirmative.
Thereafter, each of the 30-count charge was read.
The EFCC, alleged that Obla, while appearing in a suit before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, offered a gratification of N5million to the judge to allegedly induce her to refrain from acting in the exercise of her official duties as a public officer.
Obla, the EFCC claimed, paid the money from the account of his company, Obla & Company Limited, with United Bank for Africa, to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia through the bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd in Diamond Bank Plc.
The EFCC claimed that the judge and the lawyer acted contrary to sections 64 (1) and 97 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
They both pleaded not guilty to the offence.
Obla was dressed in a blue suit, a white shirt and a blue tie to match. His co-defendant, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was in a black suit and a skirt.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, who had 24 out of the 30 counts preferred against her, was accused of unlawfully enriching herself as a public officer, contrary to the provision of Section 82(a) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State No. 11, 2011.
The judge was alleged to have received $793,800 in several transactions from various sources between 2012 and 2015 “so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain the increase in relation to your lawful income”.
According to the EFCC, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, by her actions, violated Section 82(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
The judge was alleged to have forged a deed of assignment of County City Bricks Development Company Limited and Nigel & Colive Limited dated July 5, 2010, which the EFCC claimed was purportedly prepared and signed by Charles Musa & Co.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 467 of the Criminal Code Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.
In count 30, the EFCC accused Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia of giving false information to one of its operatives, Lawal Abdullahi, on October 19, 2016 by allegedly claiming on the telephone to be on admission at Gold Cross Hospital, Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, while she was not there.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 39(2)(a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia pleaded not guilty to the charges.
EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo prayed the court for a trial date and for an order remanding the defendants in prison custody pending their trial.
But Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN), and Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), for Obla, said while they had no objection to the prayer for a trial date, they were opposed to the application to remand their clients in prisons.
Both of them told the court that they had filed bail applications for their clients.
Akoni urged Justice Oshodi to grant Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia bail on self-recognition as a judge of the Federal High Court or to grant her bail on liberal terms, with a condition that the EFCC should not be the one to verify the bail conditions.
Adedipe also prayed Justice Oshodi to grant Obla bail on liberal terms, assuring that he would make himself available for trial.
“When he was allowed to travel to the U.S., he did so and returned and submitted his passport to the EFCC.
“He is one of them in EFCC. He prosecutes cases for them. Rather than pay him, they dragged him to court. He is a respected member of the Bar, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,” Adedipe said.
Oyedepo opposed their requests and urged Justice Oshodi not to grant the defendants bail but to order an accelerated hearing of the case.
Oyedepo said if released on bail, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia would interfere with investigation and the prosecution witnesses.
He recalled that it was on that basis that the EFCC revoked the administrative bail earlier granted the judge.
After standing down the case for about two hours, Justice Oshodi, in a ruling, admitted both defendants to bail on self-recognition.
He ordered them to deposit N20m each and their passport to the chief registrar of the court pending conclusion of their trial.
Justice Oshodi warned that the bail would be revoked if the defendants failed to meet the conditions within seven days.
The trial began immediately thereafter, with the EFCC calling its first witness, Mr. Adedamola Oshodi, a Diamond Bank Plc official.
The case was, however, adjourned till January 9, next year for continuation of trial, following the submission of the defence counsel who said they were not prepared for the trial.