Alleged Corruption: Court Orders Suspended Judge, Yunusa To Face Trial

Alleged Corruption: Court Orders Suspended Judge, Yunusa To Face Trial
FILE PHOTO of Justice Mohammed Yinusa at court premises after he was arraigned by the EFCC over corruption allegations on January 17, 2018.

 

A Lagos High Court Sitting in the Ikeja area has ordered a suspended judge at the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Yunusa, to face trial for alleged corruption.

Justice Sherifat Solebo gave the order on Monday while ruling on the case of allegations of corruption preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Yunusa was arraigned by the anti-graft agency on four counts bordering on an attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official.

He was arraigned in January 2017 alongside Esther Agbo, a staff of the law chambers of Mr Rickey Tarfa.

Agbo, on the other hand, was charged with an offence of offering gratification to a public official. The duo, however, denied the charges.

In the ruling which lasted for about two hours on Monday, Justice Solebo held that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had already exercised disciplinary action against the judge and the coast was, therefore, clear for him to face his trial.

She also dismissed the preliminary objections of the second defendant, Agbo and adjourned the case till June 11, 13 and 14 for trial.

On March 9, counsel to the suspended judge, Robert Clarke, had in a preliminary objection argued that his client had been absolved by the NJC of the particular charges before the court.

He consequently urged the court to quash the charges, but the EFCC through its counsel, Wahab Shittu, opposed this line of argument.

The prosecution insisted that part of the allegations against the defendant was unprofessional misconduct, interference with the cause of justice, and communication on a suit pending before him.

He further maintained that Justice Yunusa was not entitled to judicial immunity.

Part of the charges read, “Justice Yunusa attempted to pervert the course of justice by engaging in constant price and confidential telephone communications with a Mr Rickey Tarfa, SAN, during a period he presided over two of the senior advocate’s matter”.

The EFCC also alleged that the suspended judge received the sum of N750,000 from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Nwobike.

In the fifth count, Agbo was charged with offering gratification of NI.5million to Justice Yunusa, in order to induce him to give decisions in favour of the Law Chambers of Rickey Tarfa.

The NJC had In 2016 suspended Justice Yunusa and recommended his retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari who has, however, yet to act on the recommendation.

The EFCC consequently arraigned Justice Yunusa, formerly a judge of the Lagos Division of Federal High Court, alongside Agbo in January 2017.

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta’s Trial Stalled

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta's Trial StalledA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has adjourned the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, to January 18 and 23, 2017.

The Supreme Court Justice, is standing trial for corruption, alleged money laundering, breach of professional ethics and passport forgery related offenses.

The adjournment followed an application by the counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Chief Kanu Agabi, who told the court that he needed more time to prepare for trials as some documents given to him by the prosecution still needed to be studied.

This did not go down well with the prosecutor who urged the court to turn down the application.

However, trial judge, Justice John Tsoho delivered his ruling in favour of the defendant, Ngwuta, on the ground that section 36 of the constitution allows a defendant time to prepare for his defense.

He also added that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, also allows parties in a suit to at least five request for adjournment, afterwhich he adjourned the case.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the justices arrested and detained by the department of state services on October 8, 2016 for corruption and breach of professional ethics.

In November, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta had entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges leveled against him by the federal government.

He was also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million Naira on self-recognition.

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not Guilty, Granted Bail

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not GuiltyJustice Sylvester Ngwuta has entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges of money laundering, breach of professional ethics and forgery leveled against him by the federal government.

He has also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognition.

When the charges were read to him, the Supreme Court judge told the court that he was not guilty of the 15 counts.

Attempt by his lawyer to ask for bail was opposed by the prosecutor, Mr Adeogun Philips who said he had just been served and would need a short adjournment to respond.

With no objection by the defence lawyers, the trial judge, Justice James Tsoho, stood down the case by two hours.

On resumption of hearing on the bail application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Kanu Agabi asked the court to release the defendant on self-recognizance, taking judicial notice of the fact that he is a justice of the Supreme Court and the fact that he has been on administrative bail since on October 8, 2016.

Opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Charles Philips, said that the defendant cannot be granted bail with respect to his position.

Mr Philips, who referred to charges number three and charges numbers 10-16 against Justice Ngwuta, informed the tribunal that barely 20 minutes after he was released on administrative bail, Justice Ngwuta gave instructions to a witness in the case to remove two or three bags containing 27 million naira from his bathroom at his residence in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.

The prosecuting counsel also told the court that Justice Nwguta also instructed the said witness to remove three exotic cars from his residence on the same day and that they are nowhere to be found. That is what forms the subject of charge number three.

Speaking further he informed the court that in the course of investigation, the Department of State Services (DSS) discovered that Justice Ngwuta maintained multiple identities.

According to him Justice Ngwuta had four passports which he used concurrently.

Although he had reported two of those passports missing, he argued that in any jurisdiction in the world, if a person possesses several identities he cannot be released on self-recognizance.

He therefore asked the court not to grant bail but if it is inclined to, it should grant bail in the most stringent terms.

Reacting to the counter application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, told the court that he was not willing to join issues with the prosecutor because he had gone into the substantive suit which is not allowed by law and that the constitution is clear as to when bail should be granted or not.

He added that should the court reach its conclusion based on the prosecutor’s submissions, verdict would have been decided before the case is started.

Having listen to both parties, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stood down the matter for ruling at 2:30PM.

Granted Bail

On resumption, Justice John Tsoho granted bail to Justice Sylvester Ngwuta in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognizance.

According to Justice Tsoho though the prosecution sought to impress the court on the defendants’ unworthiness for bail, it failed to show that in spite of the concerns raised, the defendant had his administrative bail revoked.

He also added that it is no secret that the security agencies are watching every move made by the judge with kin interest, which is how they found that he had multiple passports.

As such the prosecution should rely on the same security apparatus to prevent any attempt not to be available for trial.

He added that it would be great injustice to prevent any citizen from enjoying bail in available offence.

According to Justice Tsoho, it is on record that the prosecution had filed an affidavit of completion of investigation and on the other hand it is raising objections that witnesses and evidence will be tampered with.

The prosecution, he said, should be able to maintain consistency rather than the inconsistencies.

Justice Tsoho then went on to say that there is no evidence before the court that Justice Ngwuta would not be available for his trial and because the offence for which he is standing trial is bailable, he is inclined to grant bail.

Trial has been fixed for December 7 and 8.

Justice Ngwuta was one of the seven judges arrested after a DSS raid on the homes of High Court and Supreme Court judges across the country on October 8, 2016.

Two Federal High Court Judges Report To EFCC

Judges in EFCC custodyTwo Federal High Court judges in Nigeria, Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa have reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Following an invitation letter the EFCC extended to them, the judges arrived at the anti-graft agency’s office at about 10:05am on Monday, October 17 in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.

Their invitation was sequel to the alleged bribery and money laundering the commission discovered while investigating an ongoing case for which two senior lawyers had already been arraigned in court.

The lawyers, Rickey Tarfa and Joseph Nwobike, were arraigned by the EFCC before a Lagos High Court on March 9, 2016, on allegations of bribery and offering gratification to a public official.

Tarfa and Nwobike are facing criminal prosecution for allegedly offering gratification to Federal High Court judges, to refrain them from exercising the duties of their office.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the two judges allegedly received money from the two senior lawyers severally.

The judges were questioned by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

Anti-corruption War Extended To Judiciary

The anti-corruption war of the present administration has been extended to legal practitioners, with top judges being investigated.

On October 8, operatives of some security agencies raided homes of some judges and arrested some of them.

The Department of State Services (DSS), which carried out the operation with some police officials, said that the judges were being investigated for alleged corruption and misconduct.

Their arrest had whipped up diverse comments, with the Nigerian Bar Association saying it was unconstitutional.

The association further declared a state of emergency in the judiciary over the midnight arrest of the judges and demanded that they should be released unconditionally.

After days in detention and several other demands for their release, the DSS granted them bail on self-recognisance, with a mandate that they must report to the security agency’s office when needed.

Court Adjourns Bribery Case Against Nwobike To April 21

NwobikeThe Lagos State High Court sitting in the Igbosere area of Lagos Island has fixed April 21 for the commencement of trial in the case of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike.

Justice Raliat Adebiyi fixed the date following a request by the counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, seeking more time to produce their witnesses in proof of the charges against the senior advocate.

On March 9, the EFCC had arraigned Mr Nwobike on allegations that he gave the sum of N750,000 to Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court to influence the judge to pervert the course of justice.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on self-recognizance by the court.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday April 11, Counsel to Mr Nwobike, Wale Akoni (SAN) informed the court that the charges against his client were unconstitutional and he intended to make a “no case submission”.

Mr Akoni also denied the claim by the prosecution counsel that the defence had filed “a harvest of motions”. The defendant’s lawyer insisted that his client looked forward to a speedy trial so he could clear his name.

The judge adjourned the case till April 21 and 22 for the prosecution to open its case.

Rickey Tarfa’s Change Of Affidavit Stalls Judgment

Rickey-TarfaJudgment in the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Suit filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Rickey Tarfa, challenging his arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was not delivered on Monday after Mr Tarfa put fresh facts before the court.

In the fresh affidavit, a former staff of Mr Tarfa’s law firm, one Mohammed Awwal Yinusa, said the 225,000 Naira, which the EFCC claimed was to bribe the judge, was actually paid to him.

The former staff claimed that the account number quoted by the EFCC actually belonged to him.

The case has generated so much interest and everyone was eager to hear the judgment of the fundamental rights enforcement filed by Mr Tarfa.

Mr Tarfa wanted the court to declare that his arrest and detention was illegal.

Amongst other things, he asked the court to award 2.5 billion Naira in his favour and against the EFCC, its acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu and two operatives of the commission, all of whom he listed as respondents in the suit.

But fresh facts brought by the senior lawyer stalled the judgment.

In a further and better affidavit introducing the fresh facts, a former staff of Mr Tarfa’s law firm, Yinusa, who shared similar names with Justice Mohammed Yinusa, claimed ownership of the account which Mr Tarfa paid in 225,000 Naira.

The EFCC had claimed that Mr Tarfa bribed the judge with the money.

Mr Tarfa had in an earlier affidavit said the money paid to the judge was a donation by a group of friends to commiserate with him over the loss of his father in law.

Mr Tarfa’s lawyer also said that it was in the interest and for the advancement of justice that the court allowed the fresh evidence for the effectual and effective determination of the suit.

But the EFCC said the action was an afterthought and an attempt to mislead the court.

The EFCC also told the court that Mr Tarfa in his extra-judicial statements to the EFCC consistently put his age at 43 instead of 54, a situation that Mr Tarfa’s lawyer said was a mistake which was corrected in the body of the statement he put before the court.

Justice Mohammed Idris has listened to all the arguments and fixed March 2 for his ruling on whether to allow Mr Tarfa adduce fresh facts in the enforcement of his Fundamental Rights Suit before the court.