Former Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia Arraigned Over N35,000,000, $655,000 Money Laundering Charges

* Former Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia(middle) in black flanked by EFCC Operatives . * Pix source: Daily Post Nigeria

 

 

 

Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today arraigned a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, at a Federal High Court, Lagos on alleged money laundering, illegal enrichment and making false statement to officer of EFCC.

Ajumogobia was arraigned today before Justice Rilwan Aikawa on an 17-count charge bordering on corruption and unlawful enrichment by a public officer.

She is specifically accused laundering the sum of N35,000,000.00 and $655,000 through her Diamond Bank account.

The defendant however, pleaded not guilty to the 17 counts.

Prior to Ajumogobia’s arraignment, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, spoke on the inability of the anti-graft agency to bring her co-accused, Mr. Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to court.

He told Justice Aikawa that Obla who was named in one of the counts is at large.

He said, “Upon the filing of the charge, I personally called Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), counsel representing the second defendant to inform him that we could not reach Mr. Obla.

“The Commission also took steps to contact him and we discovered that he had switched off his phone”.

He later urged the court to order Obla’s appearance in the next adjourned date to take his plea.

After the plea of Ajumogobia was taken as requested by the prosecutor, Oyedepo, sought for a trial date and asked that she be remanded in prison.

Responding, defence counsel, Olawale Akoni (SAN), drew the court’s attention to the bail motion of his client.

However, the SAN later withdrew the written bail motion and opted for an oral application after the prosecution indicated that it will need time to file its response.

In his arguments, Akoni urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that the defendant is a judicial officer and that by virtue of Section 36 (5) of the Constitution, she is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.

“The offences are bailable and bail is an entitlement subject to the provisions of Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

“I also urged the court to take judicial notice of the previous proceedings in suit number; LD/3671c/2016, where the defendant was admitted to bail and she never jumped bail at any point.

“The onus is on the prosecution to demonstrate with cogent reasons why the defendant should not be admitted to bail. I urged my lord to admit the defendant to bail either on self-recognizance or on other liberal terms”, he said.

In his response, EFCC’s lawyer urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that a decision has been taken on the defendant by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He urged the court not to admit the defendant to bail on self-recognizance but on other terms that will ensure she attend her trial.

In his ruling on the oral bail application, Justice Aikawa admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N10 million with one surety in like sum.

The surety, according to the judge, must either be a civil servant not below grade level 16 in the Federal or State Civil Service or a resident of Lagos who has a landed property within the court’s jurisdiction with evidence to prove same.

The court also ordered the defendant to deposit her international passport with the court’s DCR and fulfill the other conditions within 10 days excluding holidays.

The defendant was later handed over to her lawyer by the judge pending the fulfillment of the bail conditions.

The judge also summoned the second defendant, Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN) to appear in court on 15th May, 2019, for his plea to be taken.

Some of the counts in the charge marked, FHC/139C/19, reads as thus:

“That you Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla, SAN, on or about 21st day of May, 2014, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired to indirectly conceal the sum of N5 million in the Diamond Bank Account of Nigel & Colive Ltd, which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: unlawful enrichment and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a), 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

“That you Godwin Obla, SAN, on or about 21st day of May, 2014, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court procured Nigel & Colive Ltd, to retain the sum of N5 million in its Diamond Bank Account on behalf of Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: unlawful enrichment and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (c), 15 (2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

“That you Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, on or about 11th day of July, 2014, in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly conceal the sum of N12 million in the Diamond Bank Account of Nigel & Colive Ltd, opened and operated by you, which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: unlawful enrichment and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

“That you Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, on or about the 21st day of October, 2016 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly made a false statement wherein you stated as follows:

“On the 11th July, 2014, the same family that purchased my land, made a further payment of N4 million. That same 11th July, 2014, a further payment of N3 million was paid in as further payment on account of the total price of N33 million.

Also on the same day, the same person paid in N5 million which was final payment of the purchase price for the sold land in Rita Ajumogobia Street, Asaba” to Lawal Abdullahi, an officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in the course of the exercise of his duty and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 39 (2) (a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004″.

 

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