EFCC files corruption charges on Ofili-Ajumogobia, Obla

JUSTICE Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court yesterday pleaded not guilty to a 16-count criminal charge preferred against him by the federal government. Ngwuta, who was docked before Justice John Tsoho
of the Federal High Court in Abuja, denied allegation that he was involved in money laundering. He, through his lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked the court to release him on bail pending the hearing and determination of the case against him.
General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, is contending that the charge against his client contained bail-able offences, hinging the bail request on sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Meanwhile, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips sought for time to respond to Ngwuta’s bail application which he said was just served on him. “We were just served the bail motion so we need time to brainstorm on the next step to take. In any event that the court is minded to grant the defendant bail, we will demand for stringent conditions,” one of the lawyers in the prosecution team told Nigerian Pilot. There are indications that the federal government may not only oppose the bail application, but could demand that the accused jurist be temporarily remanded in prison custody pending ruling on the bail request. Earlier, Adeogun-Philips had shortly after Justice Ngwuta entered his plea, informed the trial court that one of his witnesses was present and willing to immediately commence his Evidence- in-Chief. Justice Tsoho, however, stood down the matter till 12.30pm to take arguments on the bail application. Justice Ngwuta was among seven superior court judges arrested between October 7 and 8, after the Department of State Services, DSS, raided their homes in what it termed “a sting operation.” He was in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/C/232 and signed by a Principal State Counsel, Hajara H. Yusuf, alleged to have, among other offences, stashed foreign currencies in his Abuja residence. The federal government said the DSS, at the end of the search conducted at Ngwuta’s official residence, recovered several sums of cash, including the sum of N35,358,000, $319,596, as well as 25,915 Pounds Sterling and 280 Euros. It said the search also revealed about four diplomatic passports, one official and two standard Nigerian passports, all in the name of the defendant.
The government told the court that the DSS executed a search warrant at Justice Ngwuta’s home on October 8, following series of allegations of corruption that were levelled against him. However, the court in Abuja granted the judge bail in the sum of N100m guaranteed by self- cognisance of the defendant in his capacity as a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, and would be released on bail after signing the bail bond. Justice Tsoho in his ruling on the defendant’s bail application noted that the fears expressed by the prosecution about granting bail to the defendant were unfounded. Opposing Ngwuta’s bail application, Adeogun-Philips said he should not be granted bail due to his acts of dishonesty while he was on administrative bail granted him by the DSS. He said the circumstances surrounding Ngwuta’s cases were peculiar. EFCC files corruption charges on Ofili-Ajumogobia, Obla Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday preferred a 30-count charge against a Federal High Court Judge, Rita Ofili- Ajumogobia, and Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In the charge listed as number LD/367/C/16, Ofili-Ajumogobia was listed as the first defendant while Obla was named as second defendant. The defendants were said to have committed the offence on May 21, 2015, by conspiring to pervert the course of justice with N5million. The money was alleged to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Ltd in relation to a charge number FHC/ L/C/482/10 while Ajumogobia is said to be a sole signatory to the firm. Both defendants were said to have conspired to pervert the course of justice in contravention of the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011. In counts one to four, Obla was said to have offered gratification by transferring the money from his company’s account, Obla & Co., domiciled with the United Bank for Africa, to Nigel & Colive. The transfer was alleged to have been made in order to restrain a public officer from acting in the exercise of her official duties. In counts five, Ajumogobia was said to have unlawfully enriched herself by receiving a transfer of N18million from one Arkleem Oil and Gas Ltd in her Diamond Bank account. In counts six to 20, the judge was alleged to have also received a transfer of monies from various outlets to her Diamond Bank account to the tune of over $788,000 and in count 29, she was alleged to have forged a deed of assignment between a company, County-City Bricks Dev Co Ltd and Nigel & Colive Ltd. In count 30, the judge was further alleged to have made a false statement to the EFCC that she was on admission at Gold Cross Hospital at Bourdillion Road, Ikoyi, which statement was found to be false. All the offences are said to be contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011 as well as the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004. No date has been fixed for the arraignment of the accused persons.

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