Days after they were arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly perverting the course of justice, a 30 count charge has been instituted against Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Godwin Obla, at a Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja.
In the charge No LD/367/C/16, the defendants were alleged to have 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 the anti-graft agency was to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Ltd, in relation to a charge number FHC/L/C/482/10.
However, Obla, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to declare his continued detention by the commission unlawful.
Specifically, the EFCC insisted that Justice Ajumogobia is the sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd, adding that both defendants conspired to pervert the course of justice in contravention of the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.
In counts one to four, Obla (SAN) was particularly accused of offering gratification in the said sum, 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 of the sum of N18 million from one Arkleem Oil and Gas Ltd, to her Diamond bank account.
According to counts 6 to 20 of the charge, the anti-graft agency argued that Justice Ajumogobia received a transfer of monies from various outlets to her Diamond bank account to the tune of over 788,000 dollars.
In counts 29, 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 equally alleged to have made 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 insisted that the offences are contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 as well as the EFCC (establishment) Act, 2004.
Meanwhile, Obla through his counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe SAN, brought an application, praying the court to declare his continued detention by the commission as unlawful.
Mr. Adedipe urged the court to hold that the continued detention of his client and the seizure of his mobile phones constituted an infringement on his rights to liberty and ownership of property.
He said his client, who was once a prosecutor for the EFCC, was invited to the commission on November 8 and was unduly detained till date.
According to him, the phones of the applicant were seized, contrary to constitutional provisions to own property.
His words: “The detention of Obla from November 8 till when the EFCC obtained a magisterial order for further detention is a gross violation of his rights to personal liberty.”
Responding, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s processes for lack of merit.
Mr. Oyedepo argued that the steps taken by the EFCC were allowed by law in the dispensation of its duties.
According to him, intelligence reports showed that the applicant had a company known as Obla & Co Ltd., from which the sum of N5 million was transferred to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia through a company known as Nigel & Colive Ltd.
He said that also following intelligence reports, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia was discovered to be the sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd.
He said the money was transferred to the judge during the hearing of a case before her court with suit numbered as: FHC/L/CS/482/10.
“The mere transfer of the money to the judge during the hearing of the case before her clearly showed a mind set to unduly gratify,’’ he said.
He urged the court to hold that there existed a reasonable cause for suspicion by the commission.
“The applicant even agreed that there was a communication between him and the judge,” he said.
On the issue of undue detention, Mr. Oyedepo argued that on November 8 after the applicant was detained, investigations could not be concluded and so, on November 9, an application was brought before a magistrates’ court, for a remand order.
He said the court was empowered by the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws, to grant a remand order for 14 days, adding that the order was given in the presence of the applicant.
He argued that the applicant did not file any application before the magistrates’ court for a variation of terms, or even an appeal against its ruling, adding that the court could not sit on appeal over the issue.
On the argument of unlawful detention, Mr. Oyedepo submitted that even the constitution allows for the liberty of individuals to be curtailed, adding that the EFCC acted in line with due provisions of the law.
On the seizure of the applicant’s mobile phones, Mr. Oyedepo argued that Section 44 (k) of the constitution allows for the temporary taking over of a property, for purposes of inquiry, adding that such right was qualified.
He, therefore, urged the court not to allow it to be used as a shield against lawful prosecution.
Meanwhile, Justice Mohammed Idris has fixed judgment for November 25, but no date has been fixed for arraignment of the duo on the charge pending before a Lagos High Court.