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Corruption: Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia Challenges Court’s Jurisdiction To Try Her

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Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday fixed May 31 to hear an application filed by a former judge of the court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to try her over money laundering allegations.

The sacked judge, through her lawyer, Robert Clarke (SAN) is insisting that the court cannot try her because she had not been dismissed as a judge of the Federal High Court, since there were no gazette evidencing her said dismissal.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa alongside, Godwin Obla on a 18-count charge of unlawful enrichment, illegal concealment, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.

The anti-graft  agency alleged that the two defendants allegedly conspired to indirectly conceal the sum of N5, 000,000.00 in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel Et Colive Ltd, which sum they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act to wit: unlawful enrichment.

According to the EFCC the offence is contrary to sections 18 (a), 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was also accused of making false statement when she allegedly stated as follows: “on the 11‘“ July, 2014 the same family that purchased my land made a further payment of N 4,000,000. That same 11‘” July,2014, a further payment of N3,000,000 was paid in as further payment on Account of the total price of N33,000,000.

“Also on the same day the same person paid in N5, 000,000.00 which was final payment of the purchase price for the sold land in Rita Ajumogobia Street Asaba” to Lawal Abdullahi, an officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in the course of the exercise of his duty and your thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 39(2) (a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.

They both pleaded not guilty to the charge.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, Clarke informed the court of a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge against Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.

He argued that since the prosecution had failed to produce evidence to show that his client has been dismissed from the bench, the court has been denied the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the case.

Chief Clarke also submitted that the contention of the prosecution in paragraph L of its affidavit in opposition to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s application that she had not been tried was wrong.

The senior lawyer further argued that the defendant was prosecuted for about two and half years before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, with 18 witnesses called by the prosecution, before the court dismissed the suit.

He, therefore, urged the court to hear defendant’s application.

On his part, the second defendant counsel, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) also informed the court of his motion seeking to split the charge and try the second defendant separately.

Orbih also argued that his application was not challenging the validity of the charge, but the purpose to which it is being used.

He submitted that the use of the process of the court was oppressive, and abusive, having in mind that same issue is being contested at the Court of Appeal.

The lawyer therefore asked the court not to “Share” jurisdiction with the appellate court, but to first hear the various motion pending before it.

But in his response, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo prayed the court not be persuaded to hear the motions alone, but that where the court is inclined to hearing same, it should also proceed with trial, following which the court would deliver a composite judgement in the end.

Oyedepo submitted that the various applications by defence was aimed at stalling trial and clogging justice, adding that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, seeks to redress such mischief of delays.

The prosecutor also sought to abandon the said paragraph L of his affidavit, on the grounds that he was prepared to do so, if   same will allow trial to proceed speedily.

After listening to all the parties. Justice Aikawa, in a short ruling, held that in its opinion, the prosecution was permitted to abandon the said paragraph of the affidavit.

The judge, however, held that it would hear the various applications by defence, after which it will deliver its ruling immediately.

He then adjourned the case to May 31 for hearing.

 

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