The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has charged a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Godwin Obla, with alleged bribery.
They were charged at a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, the city’s capital, on a 30-count, five of which border on an alleged five million bribe given to the judge by the SAN.
According to the anti-graft agency, the alleged bribe was offered when the judge was presiding over one of Mr Obla’s cases.
The remaining 25 charges are on the huge sums of money which passed through the accounts of the judge and her alleged inability to explain the source of the money which is more than her lawful income as a public official.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the defence team applied for their bail on self-recognisance or on liberal terms.
The EFCC has, however, contended that the defendants had tried to interfere with investigation and witnesses, urging the court to consider that in exercising its discretion on whether or not to grant bail
Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, who is covering the proceedings, reports that Justice Hakeem Oshodi has stepped down the case for now to consider his ruling on the bail applications.
The defendants are to deposit their travel passports with the Chief Registrar of the Lagos High Court within seven days otherwise the bail will be revoked.
They are also to deposit 20 million Naira with the Chief Registrar of the Lagos High Court within seven days failing which the bail will be revoked.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the plan by the Senate Committee on Judiciary to summon the judges who were recently arrested by the DSS.
LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Mr Chino Obiagwu, in a statement on Sunday, notes that the legislature has no oversight power over judicial officers under the constitutional principle of separation of powers in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
Mr Obiagwu explained that it is only the National Judicial Council (NJC) that has the power of control and discipline of judges and justices of superior courts in Nigeria.
“Any interference by the legislature or the executive into the conduct of judges in carrying out their judicial functions will amount to unlawful interference with the independence of the judiciary.
“The 1999 Constitution, unlike the legal framework of past military regimes, has consolidated the independence of the judiciary and established the NJC as the only body responsible for management of the judiciary,” he stated.
The statement further reads in part: “LEDAP is concerned that the recent raid and arrest of judges and justices by the DSS, and continued assault and raid on judges by other agencies of the executive, have the effect of opening up the judiciary to unlawful and unconstitutional interference and intimidation by other arms of government, the reason for which the Senate has the temerity to speak about inviting judicial officers for questioning.
“LEDAP will shortly approach the courts to seek orders restraining any such invitation or summon of the arrested judicial officers as it amounts to attempt to brow-beat and intimidate the judiciary.
“There are a lot of corruption issues and corrupt politicians in the legislature and executive which should preoccupy the Senators.
“The scandal arising from the padding of the budget, which has been going on for many years in the legislature with connivance of the executive, as well as bogus and secretive huge allowances and emoluments claimed by legislators are more damaging economic crimes against the Nigerian people that the Senate should address rather than intimidating few judges alleged to be corrupt.
“There are several court orders directing the National Assembly to disclose salaries and emoluments of its members, and details of constituency allowances claimed yearly by legislators. It has refused to obey these judgements of the courts.
“Nigerian legislators, adjudged as the most corrupt and most expensive in the world, has no legal or moral right to superintendent over alleged corruption in the judiciary.”
LEDAP called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to resist attempts by the executive and legislature “to control and manage the judiciary” as such situation will on the long run denigrate the judiciary and legal profession and threaten the rule of law.
The body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has endorsed the recent call by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud, for the arrested judges to proceed on a leave of absence pending when they are cleared of all the allegations made against them.
The body met in Lagos on Saturday to review and endorse all actions taken by the NBA’s president so far on the incident.
Mr Mahmoud had said that the request was in order to protect the sanctity and integrity of judicial processes that may involve the judges concerned and to safeguard the public image of the institution.
He said that the recommendation was without prejudice to the innocence or otherwise of the judges involved in the ongoing investigations.
“They should be required to recuse themselves from further judicial functions or required to proceed on compulsory leave until their innocence is fully and completely established or until the conclusion of all judicial or disciplinary proceedings,” Mr Mahmoud had insisted.
Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, reports that even though the meeting of the body of senior advocates was not open to journalists, those in attendance included the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, former presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association and other senior advocates.
Also in attendance was President Mahmoud’s main challenger in the July 2016 NBA presidential elections, Joe-Kyari Gadzama.
It is the first time the candidate is meeting with Abubakar Mahmoud after he assumed office as the 28th president of the NBA, giving an indication that despite the differences, the senior advocates are united in their stance on the efforts to fight corruption in the judiciary.
The body also reaffirmed its support for the NBA in its efforts to fight corruption in the bar and on the bench.
The NBA recently set up a task force to urgently review the current developments in the country and come up with clear specific recommendations on how best to clean up the nation’s judiciary and rebuild confidence of Nigerians in our law courts.
The report of the task force is to be submitted in the next two weeks.
On Friday, however, the NJC disagreed with the NBA on the alleged corruption case against some judges.
The NJC dismissed the call by the NBA for the judges under investigation to proceed on compulsory leave until their innocence is fully and completely established or until the conclusion of all judicial or disciplinary proceedings.
It said that it would be unlawful for it to yield to the call by the NBA, as “that position breaches the 2014 revised judicial discipline regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to section 160 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended”.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has charged a Lagos-based lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, with obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of 61.631 million Naira.
Court records show that the lawyer is to be arraigned on a one-count charge before Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos on Thursday May 12.
In the charge sheet, the EFCC said Olu-Adegboruwa and one Jonathan Udeagbala in August 2013 allegedly conspired to lease a property situated at House 105, Nicon Town Estate, Lekki, Lagos to a company named Shelf Drilling Nigeria Limited for that amount.
The property is under an interim forfeiture order by Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos State High Court.
The money was credited to Mr Olu-Adegboruwa’s Zenith Bank account and the EFCC said it was an offense punishable under Section 32(1) of the EFCC Act 2004.
Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, who spoke to some officials of the EFCC on Tuesday evening, reported that Mr Olu-Adegboruwa was in the custody of the Commission.