Bribery: Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia docked, granted bail

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, were on Monday arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja for alleged corruption.

Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia, a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and Mr Obla are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Obla is also a prosecutor for the EFCC.

The duo were jointly charged with a two-count charge of perverting the course of justice.

Justice Oshodi ordered them to move from the court gallery into the dock before the charges were read to them.

“Unfortunately, you have to be in the dock,” Justice Oshodi said.

Obla was dressed in blue suit on a white shirt and a blue tie while Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia wore a black suit and skirt.

They were asked by the court’s registrar if they understood English language, to which they answered in the affirmative, before the charges were read to them.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Obla was charged with an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5million to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official during her service as judge.

He also pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge of unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption by a public officer, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.

She also denied the charges.

According to the EFCC, Obla, on May 21, 2015, intentionally transferred N5million to Ofili-Ajumogobia via his Obla and Co United Bank of Africa (UBA) account with number: 1015319084 in order to refrain her from acting in her official duties.

The anti-graft agency alleges that Ofili-Ajumogobia, while serving as a justice of the Federal High Court, on June 5, 2012, unlawfully received N18million through her Access Bank Plc account, which she could not give a reasonable account of.

The EFCC said between 2012 and 2015 Ofili-Ajumogobia also received a total of $788,000 from various sources into her Diamond Bank account with number: 0032091183.

She allegedly received N51.1million in her Diamond Bank account from various sources which did not reflect her source of income as a judge.

The EFCC also alleges that between July 5 and December 30, 2010, Ofili-Ajumogobia forged a deed of assignment between County City Bricks Development Co Limited and Nigel and Clove Limited.

The forged deed dated July 5, 2010 was purportedly prepared and signed by Charles Musa and Co.

The anti-graft agency said that on October 19, the judge made a false statement through a phone call to Lawal Abdullahi, an officer of the EFCC, in which she claimed she was on admission at the Goldcross Hospital, Ikoyi.

The EFCC said the offences were in contravention of Section 39 (2)(a) of the EFCC Act, Sections 64 (1), 82 (a), 97(1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State and Section 467 of the Criminal Code.

After the charges were read, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, requested an immediate trial.

“My Lord we hereby apply for an immediate, accelerated trial,” Mr. Oyedepo said.

Lawyer to Ofili-Ajumogobia, Olawole Akoni, in his application for bail, pleaded with the court to release his client who had been in the custody of the EFCC.

“My Lord, the charge 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 society, a judge of the Federal High Court and she will certainly stand trial to clear her name.

“On the claims by the EFCC that she has interfered with the investigations of this matter, I refer to paragraph eight of our affidavit which stated that she has not and will not interfere with the investigations.

“In summary, I urge your Lordship to admit the defendant to bail in her own recognition and in the unlikely event that my Lord would give conditions, I request that the conditions be very liberal,” Mr. Akoni said.

Oyedepo, however, countered Akoni’s claims that Ofili-Ajumogobia will not interfere with the trial.

“Your Lordship can look at the proof of evidence before the court, there’s overwhelming evidence against Ofili-Ajumogobia of interference.

“In paragraph six, we gave details about how the defendant interfered with our investigations and tried to influence witnesses who were Ademola Oshodi and Ogor Okafor.

“The statement of Oshodi on Nov. 1 says and I quote ‘Justice Rita called me to meet her at the Church of the Assumption, Falomo, to tell me how I should answer the EFCC questions.’

“I urge your Lordship to refuse this application and grant accelerated hearing,” Oyedepo prayed.

Lawyer to Obla, Ifedayo Adedipe, noted that his client, who is a prosecutor for the EFCC, posed 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.

“There is no instance where he has interfered with the investigations of the EFCC. He is one of them; instead of paying him for the cases he has won for them, they charge him to court.

“I plead with your Lordship, Obla is a respectable member of the bar, a prosecutor for the EFCC and I urge your Lordship to grant him bail.”

In his ruling, Justice Oshodi noted that though the offences the duo were charged with were serious, the offences were bailable and as a result of their status in society, they poised no flight risk.

“The defendants are hereby granted N20 million bail on self recognition and they shall forfeit their international passports,” the judge ordered.