Abdullahi Lawal, a prosecution witness, in the ongoing trial of suspended judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia yesterday narrated how she lied about the source and the purpose of a payment of N8 million made into her company’s account.
Lawal, an investigating officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was testifying before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and a lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), who was accused of bribing her with N5 million, were jointly charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Obla is facing an additional two counts charge of offering gratification in the sum of N5m to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official while serving as a judge.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charge.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Friday, Lawal, while being led in evidence by the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, said that in the course of investigation, the EFCC discovered a payment of N8m into the account of Nigel and Colive Ltd., a company belonging to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.
The witness further stated, “She (Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia) was confronted about that payment where she mentioned that the money was from the sale of her land at Abeokuta. She said the land was sold to two people, she first mentioned one Haruna Abdullahi and later mentioned that the land was sold to one Tola.
“Our investigation revealed that Haruna was a Bureau De Change operator in Lagos here and there was no such transaction between the parties; whereas Tola was a building contractor; he was the contractor that handled the building of her residence at Parkview Estate and there was no form of land transaction between them.
“The payment of N8m was done by one Grand B Limited. There was no transaction between Grand B Ltd. and Nigel and Colive.”
Lawal, who is the 12th prosecution witness in the case, also testified that one Omali Musa, an Assistant Comptroller at the Nigeria Customs Service, paid N12m on July 11, 2014 into the account of Nigel and Colive Ltd.
According to him, the N12m was paid in three tranches of N4m, N3m and N5m on the same day.
In the course of Friday’s proceedings, the prosecution also attempted to establish that the judge lied about being hospitalised at Gold Cross Hospital, Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The prosecution played in the open court the audio recording of two telephone conversations between Lawal and Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.
In the first, Lawal’s voice was heard asking Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia if she was still at the hospital, to which she responded, “Yes.”
But when Lawal asked: “Which ward?” the judge on what seemed to be a note of agitation or surprise in her voice, responded, “Are you here!” And as the investigator responded, “Yes, I am at the hospital”, there was no further response from the other end, even as the investigator kept saying, “Hello! Hello! Hello!”
When asked by the prosecutor what happened, Lawal said, “What happened was that Honourable Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s phone went off; I was calling and she was not responding.”
Lawal explained that his decision to call the judge on the telephone was because upon getting to the hospital he discovered that she was not there, contrary to what she had told the investigator during an earlier telephone conversation.
The audio recording of the second telephone conversation between the judge and the investigator indicated that the judge had told the investigator that she was hospitalised at Gold Cross Hospital.
She had assured the investigator that she would report at the EFCC’s office as soon as she was discharged, saying she was not running away and that she would ask the doctors to discharge her soon as “I will tell them I am not as sick as they think I am.”
Towards the end of the conversation, the judge had asked whether the investigator intended to visit her at hospital, to which the investigator said, “No.”
When asked why he later visited the hospital, the investigator said, “We just went there to confirm that she was there.”
Justice Oshodi has adjourned further proceedings to February 23.
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