Graft War : As Justice Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla (SAN) Opens Defence — Nigerian Pilot News
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Graft War : As Justice Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla (SAN) Opens Defence

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After almost two years of trial, punctuated by various adjournments at the behest of the prosecution, the State has finally closed its case against the defendants in this matter on 14th September 2018.

The EFCC counsel, Nnaemeka Omewa informed the court that although the prosecution had intended to call one last witness, after an extensive review of its case and its desire to not “further waste the time of the court”, it had opted to simply close its defense.

Counsel to the 2nd Defendant, Chief I.A. Adedipe SAN informed the court that having analyzed the failure of the prosecution to establish a prima facie case against the 2nd Defendant, he would, on behalf of the 2nd Defendant, file a no-case submission within 7 days. Counsel to the 1st Defendant, Mobolaji Kuti also indicated the 1st Defendant’s intention to file a no-case submission within 14 days. The Court has now adjourned to the 2nd of November 2018 for defense.

The unwitting admission by the prosecution that it had previously wasted the time of the court comes as no surprise to spectators and followers of the proceedings. Trial commenced with the arraignment of both defendants on a 30-count Information on 28 November 2016.

In the period between the arraignment and the closure of the prosecution’s case, the prosecution had applied to the court for adjournment on at least 5 occasions, ostensibly to call more witnesses. On some occasions, the prosecution’s witnesses did not appear in Court on the dates fixed by the Court.

The pattern adopted by the prosecution in calling its witnesses earned the ire of the defence team, who described it as “trial by instalments”. On at least one occasion, the defence had alleged that the style of seeking adjournments to call one witness is tantamount to the persecution of the defendants.

Those who have keenly followed the trial from start may now wonder which way the trial will end, particularly as it concerns the 2nd Defendant who was a frontline prosecutor for the EFCC before this time. It is interesting that the case for which the Commission has accused the 2nd Defendant of impropriety was an EFCC case where the 2nd Defendant was briefed to prosecute a former DG of NIMASA, Raymond Omatseye.

Mr Omatseye was convicted for breaching the Public Procurement Act (the first conviction under that law) but was subsequently acquitted by the Court of Appeal. The EFCC has since filed an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in this case.

Meanwhile, Obla SAN had in 2017 instituted an action against the EFCC for recovery of his professional fees amounting to over N 685 million for years of unpaid services and expenses incurred on behalf of the Commission (Suit no: FCT/HC/CV/3220/17).

This action is currently before Justice V.B. Ashli of the High Court of the FCT.

Obla’s claims include for the payment of outstanding professional fees for the prosecution of various high-profile criminal cases on behalf of the EFCC (including the case of FRN v Raymond Omatseye) as well as fees for the recovery of several billions worth of assets forfeited to the FG through his firm.

The suit also seeks the reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Obla’s firm for the prosecution of EFCC cases, running into several millions of Naira.

Hearing in this suit commenced in April 2018 with the examination-in-Chief of Obla himself, and now stands further adjourned to a further date in October 18 2018 for continuation of hearing.

In the reliefs sought by the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Godwin Obla are:

(a) AN ORDER directing the defendant to pay to the plaintiff the sum of N 685,389,928.10 (Six Hundred and Eighty-Five Million, Three Hundred and Eighty-Nine Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twenty-Eight Naira and 10 Kobo) and $ 202,460.47 (Two Hundred and Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Dollars and Forty-Seven Cents) or its Naira equivalent at the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria exchange rate, being professional fees for legal services rendered by the Plaintiff to the Defendant at sundry times at/on the Defendant’s request.

(b) AN ORDER appointing an independent Estate Surveyor/Valuer to undertake a valuation of all properties/assets recovered by the Plaintiff for the Defendant, the subject matter of orders of forfeiture obtained by the Plaintiff in favour of the Defendant and to file a report of the value of same thereof to the Court.

(c) A CONSEQUENTIAL ORDER directing the Defendant to pay to the Plaintiff 10% of the current value of all real properties recovered by the Plaintiff or in respect of which Plaintiff obtained orders of interim and/or final forfeiture on behalf of the Defendant, as assessed and valued by an Independent Estate Surveyor/Valuer as appointed by this Honourable Court.

(d) AN ORDER directing the Defendant to pay to the Plaintiff the cost of this Suit assessed at N 10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira);

(a) AN ORDER directing the Defendant to pay the Plaintiff pre-judgment interest on the sums of N 685,389,928.10 and $ 202,460.47 respectively at the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) prime lending rate of 16.77% from 16th April 2016 until the date of filing this suit;

(e) AN ORDER directing the Defendant to pay interest on the judgment sum at the prevailing CBN prime lending rate from date of judgment until final liquidation;

(f) AND FOR SUCH FURTHER OR OTHER ORDER(S) as this Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case.

All in all, onlookers would be curious about the entire circumstances of this case.

Is the prosecution of the 2nd Defendant a fallout of some animosity harbored by the EFCC against him, or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Since the commencement of the trial, the defendants never requested for a single adjournment and always insisted on expedited trial before Justice Oshodi of the Lagos State High court.

Could it be that the prosecution of Chief Godwin Obla, SAN, has to do with the suit filed in 2015 seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari or numerous cases he has been handling for the opposition particularly, cases relating to Rivers State government ?

The trial against Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla SAN moved with a snail pace when it eventually started , as the prosecution filed additional list of witnesses and additional proof of evidence and was just able to serve the defence teams of both defendants in court after much delay.
At the resumed hearing of the charge, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel for the EFCC informed the court that the witness who had not been cross-examined by the defence was present in court to be cross-examined.

The witness, Mr. Musa Tahir from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) had earlier testified that sometime in 2014 he was directed by the Comptroller General of the NCS at the time, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko to hand over a paper which contained the account details of a company, Nigel & Olive Limited said to be operated by Justice Ajumogobia to Mr. Musa Omale, an assistant comptroller in the service.

He testified that he was instructed to liaise with area comptroller of 12 commands who were to pay the sum of 1 million Naira each into the account of Mr. Omale who was to transfer the total sum to the account of Nigel & Olive Limited.

He was cross-examined by Mr. Akoni SAN representing the judge in the charge.

Under cross-examination, Mr. Tahir stated that he had never met the judge one-on-one.

He admitted that he doesn’t know why the then Comptroller General had asked for the money to be paid into the account.

He also stated that the instructions were in writing and that he handed over the paper to Mr. Musa Omale who carried out the transfer.

He admitted that he doesn’t know what the payment was for or the source of the money or where the money came from. When he was asked by Mr. Akoni SAN if the then Comptroller General of Customs who had issued the directives was still alive, he answered that he was.

Chief Ifedayo Adedipe SAN representing his brother silk in the charge informed the court that he had no questions for the witness. The witness was discharged.

Mr. Oyedepo informed the court that the next witness the prosecution intended to call, Dr. Olumuyiwa Solanke, was listed in the additional list of witnesses just filed and served today and that his witness statement was in the additional proof of evidence also just filed and served.

Both Mr. Akoni SAN and Chief Adedipe SAN submitted that it was only fair that they be given time to go through the bundle of documents served on them today before the witness can be called.

Mr. Oyedepo agreed that the defendants have a constitutional right to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence and apologized to the court and the defence teams for bringing in the documents late.

.

The EFCC had alleged that about $793,800 passed through the judge’s domiciliary accounts between 2012 and 2015.

The judge allegedly used the money to buy a house in London.

The two accounts, Access Bank (0002649223) and Diamond Bank (0032091183) have since been frozen by the EFCC.

The commission later arraigned the two defendants before a Lagos State High Court .

Five of the charges are centered on an alleged N5m bribe given to the judge by the senior advocate while the remaining 25 charges are on the huge amounts that passed through the accounts of Ofili-Ajumogobia and her alleged inability to explain her source of wealth.

The other charges filed against the judge border on forgery, lying, unlawful enrichment and other related offenses.

Before the arraignment of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Chief. Godwin Obla, SAN were kept in the custody of the EFCC for about a month following allegations that the senior advocate paid N5m into her account in 2015 at a time she was presiding over one of his cases.

Chief. Obla insisted that he did not know that the account belonged to the judge.

Some of the charges read in part, “That you, Hon. Justice Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, and Godwin Obla (SAN), on or about May 21, 2015, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired with each other to pervert the course of justice in charge number FHC/L/C/482C/10 with the sum of N5,000,000.

“That you, Godwin Obla (SAN), on or about May 21, 2015, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, intentionally gave the sum of N5,000,000 to Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court directly from your Obla and Company account (1015319084) domiciled in the United Bank for Africa Plc in order that the said judge acts in the exercise of her official duties.”

Investigations by the EFCC further revealed that about $793,800 passed through the judge’s accounts and she allegedly was not able to explain to detectives how she came about the sums.

A breakdown of the figures by the EFCC showed that Ofili-Ajumogobia received a deposit of $130,000 through her Diamond Bank account on May 30, 2013. On June 2, 2014, she allegedly received $70,000 through the same account.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the judge received $55,000 on March 27, 2014, and another $55,000 on October 14, 2014 while $20,000 was received through the same account on June 19, 2014.

The commission alleged in the charge sheet that Ofili-Ajumogobia also received $20,000 on October 13, 2014 while she got an additional $50,000 on December 20, 2014.

The judge allegedly received $50,000 on November 21, 2014 and $30,000 between June 17 and June 19, 2015 through the same Diamond Bank account as well as another $10,000 on July 6, 2015.

She allegedly received $20,000 on June 11, 2013; $30,000 on February 11, 2014 and $150,000 on March 29, 2014.

The EFCC accused the judge of receiving $68, 800 through her Access Bank account between August 11, 2011 and March 27, 2012.

She also allegedly received $35,000 through the same account between April 30 and September 3, 2012.

The charges were said to be contrary to Section 82 (a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No 11, 2011.

Some of the charges read, “That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, between the 11th day of August 2011 and 27th day of March 2012, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being a judge of the Federal High Court, enriched yourself with a total sum of $68,000 through your account (0002649223) domiciled in Access Bank Plc, so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain in relation to your lawful income.

“That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, between the 10th and 30th day of May 2013, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being a judge of the Federal High Court, enriched yourself with a total sum of $130,000 through your account (0032091183) domiciled in Diamond Bank Plc, so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain in relation to you your lawful income.

“That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, on or about the 20th day of December 2014, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being a judge of the Federal High Court, enriched yourself with a total sum of $50,000 through your account (0032091183) domiciled in Diamond Bank Plc, so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain in relation to you your lawful income.”

The judge allegedly received over N40m in mysterious deposits made by some companies.

The EFCC also accused the judge of telling lies.

Specifically, Ofili-Ajumogobia had told detectives around 7.16pm on October 19, 2016 that she would not be able to honour an invitation because she was admitted to Golden Cross Hospital, Bourdillon, Ikoyi.

However, the judge was not there when detectives checked the hospital.

She was also accused of forging a deed of assignment between County City Bricks Development Company Limited and Niger & Colive Limited in 2010.

END

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