Bribery Allegation: Court To Deliver Judgement In Senior Lawyer’s Trial April 30
The Lagos State High Court Sitting in Ikeja has fixed April 30 to deliver judgment in the case of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Joseph Nwobike, who was accused of offering gratification of N750,000 and N300,000 to two judges.
Justice Raliat Adebiyi fixed the judgment date after parties in the suit adopted their final written addresses.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is prosecuting Mr Joseph Nwobike for offering gratification to Justice Mohammed Yunusa and Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa both of whom had been dragged to court by the EFCC.
The EFCC claimed that Mr Nwobike offered them the money to allegedly pervert the course of justice.
But the senior lawyer pleaded not guilty.
Mr Nwobike was first arraigned on five charges on March 9, 2016.
The charges have been amended on two different occasions, each time leading to the re-arraignment of the SAN.
The last amendment to the charges saw Nwobike re-arraigned today (Thursday), after which the lawyers canvassed their final arguments.
Canvassing final arguments on Thursday, Nwobike’s lead counsel, Mr Wale Akoni (SAN), urged the court to discharge and acquit his client, contending that the EFCC failed to substantiate its allegations against him.
Mr Akoni, who argued that there was no law that makes giving gifts to judges a crime, accused the EFCC of being desperate to nail his client at all costs.
He said in the EFCC’s desperation, it had amended the charges on three occasions after seeing that its case was going nowhere.
He said the EFCC’s case was based on mere suspicion or speculation, maintaining that “no matter how sweet or interesting it (speculation) may sound, speculation cannot amount to proof.”
Mr Akoni also said that contrary to the claim by the EFCC, the N750,000 that Nwobike gave to Justice Yunusa was not a bribe but “for the specific purpose of helping the (sick) mother of the gentleman.”
He said all the judgments which the EFCC claimed that Nwobike paid Justice Yunusa to give in his favour were all upheld at the Court of Appeal.
He also wondered why the EFCC failed to call the judges and court officials that Nwobike allegedly bribed to come and testify in court, despite interrogating all of them.
He urged Justice Adebiyi to dismiss the charges and set Nwobike free.
But the EFCC prosecutor, Oyedepo, countered him, urging the court to convict Nwobike.
“Could it be said that in line with the evidence of PW1 to PW7, the exhibits that we have tendered and the evidence elicited from the defendant during cross-examination, the defendant did not commit the offence he was charged with?” Oyedepo queried.
He noted that Nwobike did not deny giving N750,000 to Justice Yunusa when he had cases before the judge, adding that it was no defence that the Court of Appeal upheld Justice Yunusa’s judgments in the cases.
Oyedepo said Akoni turned the law on its head with the arguments that judges can receive monetary gifts.
“The only gifts that are allowed are complimentary gifts – cards, books,” he said.
The EFCC counsel also said it was implausible that the commission would call the judges whom Nwobike allegedly bribed as witnesses since they were also complicit.
He noted that, already, those judges had been separately charged in relation to the allegations.
He urged the judge to apply full probative value to all the evidence given by the prosecution and convict Nwobike accordingly.
After hearing the parties out, Justice Adebiyi adjourned till April 30, 2018, for judgment.