The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arrested a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita-Ofili-Ajumogobia, shortly after a Lagos High Court struck out a 30-count charge bordering on corruption against her.
The arrest generated a mild drama in the premises of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja immediately after Justice Hakeem Oshodi struck out the corruption charge against her.
The anti-graft agency explained that it re-arrested the former judge “to enable it to prefer a fresh criminal charge against her.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia, who just had a sigh of relief and was stepping out of the courtroom had to flee back to Justice Oshodi’s court for refuge on sighting the EFCC operatives numbering about 15, who had laid siege to her.
When the embattled judge, however, notified the court of her impending arrest, Justice Oshodi said that there was nothing he could do anymore, as the case file had immediately been closed.
When she refused to step out of the courtroom, the EFCC operatives had to wait until the court rose before they re-arrested the embattled judge and escorted her into a waiting white Hilux van.
Ofili-Ajumogobia has been standing trial since November 2016, when she was first arraigned alongside Godwin Obla (SAN), a former prosecution counsel for EFCC, on a 30-count charge bordering on alleged perversion of the course of justice, unlawful enrichment and forgery.
According to the charge sheet, five of the charges which directly concerned Obla are centred on an alleged N5 million bribe given to the judge by the senior advocate while the remaining 25 charges are on the huge amounts that passed through her accounts and her alleged inability to explain her source of wealth.
The EFCC alleged that about $793,800 passed through the judge’s domiciliary accounts between 2012 and 2015.
According to the anti-graft agency, the offences are contrary to Sections 64(1), 82(a) and 69(1) (a) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State No. 11, 2011.
The judge allegedly used the money to buy a house in London.
In the charge with suit No: LD/367/C/16, the anti-graft agency insisted that the defendants allegedly committed the offence on May 24, 2015, when they conspired to pervert the course of justice with the sum of N5 million.
The said sum according to the EFCC was said to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Ltd, in relation to a charge number FHC/L/C/482/10.
The commission maintained that Justice Ofili-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.
According to counts one to four, Obla was particularly accused of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million, by transferring the money from his company’s account Obla & Co., domiciled with the United Bank for Africa, to Nigel & Colive.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges and were granted bail on self recognisance as prayed by their counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni SAN, for Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe SAN, despite stiff opposition by the prosecution led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo who had argued that they might interfere with investigation and prosecution witnesses.
On February 2018, the EFCC amended the charges reducing it to 24 counts and the duo were re-arraigned.
After the re-arraignment, in October 2018, the National Judicial Council (NJC) during its 87th meeting, which was held on October 3, under the Chairmanship of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, recommended the dismissal of Ofili-Ajumogobia as a judge.
The recommendation for dismissal was as on the strength of petitions filed to the NJC containing allegations of corruption against her by Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC.