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Judge freed, arrested, faces fresh charges

Judge freed, arrested, faces fresh charges

Romanus Okoye

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, re-arrested Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, few minutes after a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja struck out the suit against her.

The Commission defended her re-arrest, which it said was done to enable it prefer a fresh criminal charge against her.

The court dismissed the suit against Ofili-Ajumogobia, a Federal High Court judge, Ilorin, Kwara, for lack of jurisdiction.

She was arraigned for unlawful enrichment and breach of code of practice. The EFCC alleged that about $667,000 and N54 million were deposited into her personal and company accounts by clients and associates. She was charged together with Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

The Commission had surrounded the premises of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja as soon as Justice Hakeem Oshodi ruled on the matter.

The anti-graft agency later  arrested her while her co-defendant, Godwin Obla (SAN) left the court.

The drama began as soon as the court delivered its judgment and Ofili-Ajumogobia in company with her husband was leaving the courtroom.

She had not left the premises when she got information that officials of the agency had surrounded the court waiting to arrest and move her to Abuja. She ran back to the court room apparently to evade arrest. Sensing that it might be easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for her to shake off her pursuers,  she stepped out of “hiding” and walked down where she was arrested.

Stationed at the court premises for the operation was a white truck with registration number Abuja, BWR 63780.

The Commission said her re-arrest was to enable it prefer a fresh criminal charge against her and in line with the decision of the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, in a case involving Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, where it said a judge could not be prosecuted until he or she had either been dismissed or compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council, NJC.

Consequent upon the fact that the Commission had presented Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia before the NJC for disciplinary action and that the NJC had taken a position, the Commission would now approach the court to prefer fresh charges her.

The Commission had first arraigned Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla on a 30-count charge on Monday, November 28, 2016 on offences bordering on perversion of the course of justice, graft, unlawful enrichment, providing false information and forgery.

They were, however, re-arraigned on an amended 31-count charge bordering on an alleged perversion of the course of justice, unlawful enrichment and forgery.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, thereby setting the stage for the trial.

Having presented 12 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court in the course of the trial, counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, first defendant, Robert Clarke SAN, in an application dated November, 27, 2018, said the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and urged the court to discharge and acquit his client.

However, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) counsel for the second defendant, Obla, on January 25, 2019, told the court that the charges preferred against his client could be entertained.

He, therefore, urged the court to separate the charges so that his client could continue with his trial.

After listening to both parties, Justice Oshodi ruled that “the issue of substantive jurisdiction must be cleared before the issue of no-case submission could be heard.”

The Judge further directed both parties to make their submissions based on the application on the jurisdiction of the court.

In his ruling at yesterday’s sitting, Justice Oshodi said based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Hon. Justice Nganjiwa V. FRN, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit as the EFCC “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.

The Judge further held that “As at Monday, December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa vs FRN.

“As at that date, the amended information was yet to be filed and the 12 prosecution witness was still giving evidence.”

EFCC said in view of the ruling by Justice Oshodi and having complied with the NJC procedure, it is set to prefer fresh criminal charges against the first defendant, Ofili-Ajumogobia.

-Sun

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Posted by on Apr 17 2019. Filed under EFCC Politics, Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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