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Why we re-arrested dismissed Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia – EFCC
Commission to file fresh charges against her
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says the dismissed Justice of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, was re-arrested on Tuesday in order to enable the commission 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,” wrote Tony Orilade, EFCC’s spokesperson, in a statement.
“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 against her.”
Providing a brief background of the case, Orilade narrated how the EFCC had first arraigned Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on a 30-count charge on Monday, November 28, 2016, for offences bordering on perversion of the course of justice, graft, unlawful enrichment, providing false information and forgery.
The charges were later amended to 31-count charges and the accused persons pleaded not guilty.
In the course of the trial, Orilade said the EFCC had presented 12 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court, until counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, Robert Clarke (SAN), filed an application dated November 27, 2018, in which he challenged the jurisdiction of the court 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,” Orilade stated.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Akeem Oshodi struck out the 31 amended charges against the defendants, citing the judicial precedent set by the decision of Justice Nganjiwa of the Court of Appeal.
Nganjiwa had held that an erring judicial officer ought to face disciplinary measures by the National Judicial Council (NJC) and only after such judicial officer had been stripped by NJC could he or she be charged.
“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,” Orilade, on Tuesday, quoted Justice Oshodi.
The trial judge, therefore, ruled that the EFCC “jumped the gun” in filing the amended charge, and as such, the case was struck out.
Justice Oshodi, however, rejected both the application seeking to discharge and acquit Ofili-Ajumogobia and the one seeking to separate the charges.
Outside the court premises, after the case had been struck out, officials of the EFCC surrounded Ofili Ajumogobia as she made to leave.
Reporters at the court premises said she immediately withdrew to the courtroom to seek the intervention of the trial judge but when he was informed of the development, Justice Oshodi said there was nothing he could do as the case was already closed.
Ofili-Ajumogobia was subsequently arrested but her co-accused, Godwin Obla (SAN), was allowed to leave the court premises.