Eniola Akinkuotu and Ade Adesomoju
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed 30 charges against a Federal High Court judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Obla, The PUNCH has learnt.
The EFCC said 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 is expected to arraign the two suspects before a Lagos State High Court this week.
Five of the charges are centred 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 offences.
Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla have been in the custody of the EFCC for about 10 days following revelations that the senior advocate paid N5m into her account in 2015 at a time she was presiding over one of his cases.
While Ofili-Ajumogobia claimed the money was a deposit for a N40m property she sold to Obla, the senior advocate said the money was a payment for building materials.
Obla also 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 honourable 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.
Breakdown of figures
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 said 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.
Judge accused of lying
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.
UN’s ex-prosecutor to lead Justice Ngwuta’s trial today
A former prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Mr. Segun Jegede, has been engaged by the Federal Government to handle the trial of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who is to be arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja today (Monday).
Jegede and another international lawyer, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, have been engaged by the Federal Government to prosecute all the judges it lined up for trial.
The two lawyers with decades of international practice are separately leading two teams that have been briefed by the Federal Government through its National Prosecution Coordination Committee.
While Jegede is leading the prosecution of Justice Ngwuta, Adeogun-Philips has been briefed to lead the prosecution of some Supreme Court officials who had been charged with diversion of N2.2bn belonging to the apex court.
The two lawyers are both on the team of 80 special prosecutors of the Federal Government whose activities are being coordinated by the NPCC.
Jegede reportedly worked at the UNICTR for over a decade.
Jegede’s work at the UNICTR mainly revolved around the investigation and prosecution of some of the known masterminds of crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide.
According to online search engine, Wikipedia, the Rwandan genocide, which lasted about 100 days in 1994, was a mass slaughter of the members of the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda by the members of the Hutu majority government.
Jegede was also said to have had a stint at the Federal Ministry of Justice as a state counsel before going into legal practice and establishing his own law firm in 1988
Adeogun-Philips, who was born in England 50 years ago, is a former genocide and war crime prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
Already, three cases have been filed with respect to the charges of corruption preferred against some judges and court officials, following the raid on the houses of some judges by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8, 2016.
The first case involved a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ngwuta, who was charged with 14 counts of money laundering before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Another case involved a Federal High Court judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who was charged with receiving gratifications, along with his wife.
The other one involved the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr. Ahmed Saleh, who was charged along with two other officials of the apex court.
The three apex court’s officials were jointly charged with alleged diversion of N2.2bn belonging to the court and receiving gratifications from contractors providing services to the court.
Also to be later charged is another Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Inyang Okoro.
Justice Ngwuta, who was charged with 14 counts of money laundering, has been scheduled to appear before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja, for arraignment today.
It was alleged in the 14 counts of money laundering that Ngwuta transferred the total sum of N505m “denominated in naira and US dollars” to a building contractor, Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, between January and May 2016.
The N505m was alleged to be part of proceeds of Ngwuta’s “unlawful” activities.
He was also accused in the amended charges of retaining N35,358,000; $319,596 and £25,915 during the raid on his house by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8.
Apart from the money laundering charges, Ngwuta was accused of passport offences in counts eight to 14 of the amended charges.
He was accused of being in possession of two valid diplomatic passports and another two valid Nigerian passports, when his house was raided by DSS operatives on October 8, 2016.