THERE was a drama at the premises of Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, yesterday, as officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, re-arrested a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia after corruption charge against her was dismissed.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was arraigned along with Godwin Obla, SAN, for allegedly receiving $793,800 in several tranches from different sources from 2012 to 2015.
The EFCC which had initially closed its case against the judge on September 14, 2018 after calling 12 witnesses and tendering several documents, later turnaround to ask the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
The EFCC request was sequel to an application filed by Ofili-Ajumogobia’s counsel, Chief Robert Clarke, SAN, urging the court to discharge and acquit her.
The commission’s lead prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, in response to the application, admitted that the charge brought against Ofili-Ajumogobia, was indeed not in line with the guidelines of the National Judicial Council, NJC.
In his ruling, Justice Hakeem Oshodi dismissed the charges against Ofili-Ajumogobia, and frowned at the EFCC for wasting the time of the court. Justice Oshodi said: “As at December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjuwa versus FRN.
As at that date, the amended information was yet to be filed and the 12th prosecution witness was still giving evidence. “The prosecution persisted like a bull running amok and still called two more witnesses and precious judicial time was wasted.
We have not found a way in the judicial atmosphere to discipline or penalize an agency of government through fines or costs. In conclusion, the court has no jurisdiction to hear the first amended charge of February 21, 2018 of 31-counts. This suit is hereby struck out.”
About 10 officials of the EFCC surrounded Ofili-Ajumogobia as she attempted to leave the courtroom at 10.24 a.m. after the ruling by Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Upon sighting the officials, the judge made a hasty retreat and went back upstairs into Justice Oshodi’s courtroom to seek the protection of the court from the EFCC officials.
Justice Oshodi when notified about the development said there was nothing he could do as “the file had been closed.”
The embattled former judge and her husband who was with her, were observed frantically making various phone calls.
Mr Godwin Obla. SAN, Ofili-Ajumogobia’s co-defendant was however allowed to exit the court premises by officials of the EFCC.
However, when Justice Oshodi’s court rose, she was apprehended at 11.47 a.m. by some EFCC officials who whisked her away in a white hilux van with Abuja plate number BWR637AT.
NAN reports that earlier, Justice Oshodi, in a ruling struck out the 31-count charge filed by the EFCC against Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.
The judge ruled that based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Justice Nganjiwa Vs FRN, the EFCC had “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.
Justice Oshodi noted that the anti-graft commission had not followed the procedures set by the National Judicial Council (NJC) in disciplining erring judicial officers.