Peter Fowoyo, Lagos
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re – arraigned a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, over alleged corruption.
Justice Ofili – Ajumogobia was re-arraigned alongside Godwin Obla (SAN), who was absent when the judge was first arraigned barely a month ago.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo had at the last arraignment urged the court to grant an order compelling Obla to appear in court. The duo had earlier been arraigned on a 30-count charge bordering on corruption before an Ikeja High Court, Lagos.
But, Justice Hakeem Oshodi struck out the charge against Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was however, re – arrested by operatives of the anti-graft commission as she was leaving the court premises after the charge was struck out.
At yesterday’s proceedings before justice Mohammed Aikawa, the duo pleaded not guilty to an 18-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property unlawfully, corruption, forgery and giving false information.
However, Justice Aikawa adopted the same terms and conditions granted to Justice Ofili – Ajumogobia on April 18 when she was first arraigned. The two defendants were therefore, granted bail in the same terms and conditions in the sum of N10 million with one surety in like sum who must have landed property in Lagos.
Obla’s counsel, Chief Fedenand Obi (SAN) had earlier applied for an oral bail for his client by asking the court to take judicial notice of the fact that Obla is a senior advocate.
Prosecution counsel, Oyedepo didn’t oppose the bail applications, allowing the the court to use its discretion to impose the terms and conditions that will ensure that the defendant will always be present during trial.
Counsel to the first defendant, Chief Robbort Clerk (SAN) however, informed the court of a pending motion filed on May 13 challenging the jurisdiction of the court entertaining the charge pressed against his client.
He said that the substance of the charge has been decided by Justice Oshodi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, which was struck out based on the Appeal Court decision in Nganjiwa’s case where it was decided that no judicial officer can be tried unless the National Judicial Council (NJC) has sanctioned such a judge.
Oyedepo on his part said that the position has changed as on November 7, 2018, President Mohammadu Buhari had approved the recommendations of the NJC that Justice Ajumogobia be dismissed from the bench.
Justice Aikawa adjourned the case till May 23 for argument of the preliminary objection.