NIGERIA- The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, re-arrested Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia to enable it to prefer a fresh criminal charge against her.
The Commission re-arrested Ofili-Ajumogobia in line with the decision of the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, in a case involving Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, where it said that a judge could not be prosecuted until he or she had either been dismissed or compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Consequent upon the fact that the Commission had presented Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia before the NJC for disciplinary action and that the NJC had taken a position, the Commission would now approach the court to prefer fresh charges her.
The Commission had first arraigned Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla, SAN, on a 30-count charge on Monday, November 28, 2016 on offences bordering on perversion of the course of justice, graft, unlawful enrichment, providing false information and forgery. They were, however, re-arraigned on an amended 31-count charge bordering on an alleged perversion of the course of justice, unlawful enrichment and forgery.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, thereby setting the stage for the trial. Having presented 12 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court in the course of the trial, counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, first defendant, Robert Clarke SAN, in an application dated November, 27, 2018, said the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and urged the court to discharge and acquit his client.
However, Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, counsel for the second defendant, Obla, on January 25, 2019, told the court that the charges preferred against his client could be entertained. He, therefore, urged the court to separate the charges so that his client could continue with his trial. After listening to both parties, Justice Oshodi ruled that “the issue of substantive jurisdiction must be cleared before the issue of no-case submission could be heard.”
The Judge further directed both parties to make their submissions based on the application on the jurisdiction of the court. In his ruling at today’s sitting, Justice Akeem Oshodi stated that, based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Hon. Justice Nganjiwa V. FRN, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit as the EFCC “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.
The Judge further held that “As at Monday, December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa vs FRN. “As at that date, the amended information was yet to be filed and the 12 prosecution witness was still giving evidence.” In view of today’s ruling by Justice Oshodi and having complied with the NJC procedure, the Commission is set to prefer fresh criminal charges against the first defendant, Ofili-Ajumogobia.