A Judge of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, alongside a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla were yesterday arraigned before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja over alleged bribery and unlawful enrichment.
The duo were docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Hakeem Oshodi on a 30-count charge that bothers on perversion of the course of justice, bribery and unlawful enrichment.
EFCC, in the charge designated LD/367/C/16, alleged that the defendants committed the offence on May 21, 2015, when they conspired to pervert the course of justice with the sum of N5 million.
The said sum, according to EFCC was said to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Ltd, in relation to a charge number FHC/L/C/482/10.
At the arraignment on Monday, count one to four, accuse Obla (SAN) of offering gratification in the sum of five million Naira (N5m), by transferring the money from his company’s account Obla & Co., domiciled with the United Bank for Africa, to Nigel & Colive.
The transfer according to the charge was made so as to restrain a public officer from acting in exercise of her official duties.
Count five of the charge stated that Justice Ajumogobia unlawfully enriched herself by receiving a transfer or the sum of N18 million from one Arkleem Oil and Gas Ltd, to her Diamond bank account.
The commission in counts six to 20 also alleged that Justice Ajumogobia received a transfer of monies from various outlets to her Diamond bank account to the tune of over 788,000 dollars.
Other counts also stated that the Federal High Court judge was accused of forging a deed of assignment between a company, County City Bricks Dev. Co. Ltd and Nigel & Colive Ltd.
Justice Ajumogobia was also accused of making a false statement to the EFCC, that she was on admission at one Gold Cross Hospital, located at Bourdillon, Ikoyi, which statement was found to be false.
The anti-graft agency maintained that the offences are contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 as well as the EFCC (establishment) Act, 2004.
Counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, Mr. Olawole Akoni (SAN) in his application for bail, prayed the court to release his client who had been in the custody of the EFCC for a while.
“My Lord, the charged against the first defendant are bailable offences according to Sec 115 (2)(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
“The defendant does not pose a threat, she’s a responsible member of the society, a judge of the Federal High Court and she will certainly stand trial to clear her name.
Counsel to Obla, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), noted that his client who is a prosecutor for the EFCC, poised no flight risk.
“The second defendant has been going and coming to the EFCC for some sister cases and he has deposited his passport with them.
“The applicant is not a flight risk, he went to the USA with the knowledge of the EFCC and he returned his passport to them, he is not a flight risk.
In his ruling, Justice Oshodi held that the alleged offenses that the defendants were said to have committed is a bailable offense.
“There is no evidence that the defendants were serial offenders, and we must not forget that a defendant in a criminal charge is not guilty until proven guilty”.
“On this cause, I am persuaded to grant the two defendants bail on self- recognition. They were thereby ordered to deposit N20M and their international passports at the court registry.
During the trial, the prosecution witness, Adedamola Oshodi who is a staff of Diamond Bank PLC, testified before the court that he agreed to collect cash deposit in dollars from the 1st defendant’s office to deposit in her account.
However, the trial was stalled as the defense counsels raised an objection based on the fact that they were not prepared for the trial.
The counsels averred that they were only prepared for bail applications not trial, stating “while our clients were with the Commission, we only met with them twice.
“I urge my Lord to grant us an adjournment so as to prepare adequately for trial.
In his reaction, EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo said, there is nothing new in what the witness is saying, or has to say, he urged the court to go on with the trial.
“I seek your Lordship indulgence to allow the trial go on, he said.
However, after listening to both counsels, Justice Oshodi ruled that the matter be adjourned for the purpose of fair hearing.
“For the purpose of fair hearing, the court will adjourn the matter till January 9, 2017 for the continuation of trial.