Graft: EFCC Rearraigns Federal High Court Judge, Ofili-Ajumogobia
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today, re-arraigned a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on allegations of unlawful enrichment, breach of trust, money laundering and giving a false statement.
She was arraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman on an amended 15 count charge dated March 2nd.
Before her re-arraignment, Ajumogobia was docked alongside a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, who had earlier been charged along with her.
The EFCC’s Counsel, Suleiman I. Suleiman, then applied to the court to withdraw the name of Obla from the charge.
The court granted the request and Obla was accordingly acquitted and discharged. This paved the way for the re-arraignment of Justice Ajumogobia as the sole defendant in the amended charge marked FHC/L/139c/2019.
In the first count, the EFCC alleged that “Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili Ajumogobia on or about the 11th day of July, 2014 in Lagos…, indirectly concealed the total sum of N12 million, in the diamond account of Nigel & Colive Limited, a sum she reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of an unlawful act, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same act.
Justice Ajumogobia pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts.
Her counsel, Mobolaji Kuti then applied to the court to allow her continue on the bail previously granted by his brother judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa who had earlier recused himself from her trial.
Justice Liman granted this request before adjourning to April 21 and 28 for trial.
The EFCC had first arraigned Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on an 18 count charge before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos. She pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Justice Aikawa admitted her to bail in the sum of N10 million with two sureties in like sum.
On May 18, 2019, counsel to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, Robert Clarke (SAN) challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try his client. In moving his application on the preliminary objection, he told the court that his client is still a judge of the Federal High Court and as such could not be tried in line with the precedent set in the case of Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa.
A month later on June 28, Justice Aikawa dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia challenging her trial before the court.
He held that Justice Ajumogobia is no longer a judicial officer and could therefore be tried on any criminal offence for which she is accused.
Justice Ajumogobia has since challenged that decision at the Court of Appeal.
In the counts, the EFCC alleged that at various times, she indirectly concealed different sums of money, in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel and Colive Ltd, a company alleged to be operated by her.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was also alleged to have on different dates in 2014, retained sums of monies like N5million, 150,000 dollars, 20,000 dollars, 30,000 dollars, 50,000 dollars, and 55,000 dollars in the Diamond bank account of Nigel and Colive.
The EFCC also accused Ajumogobia of indirectly concealing the sum of N12million in the same account, and making a false statement to the EFCC that the money was payment for the sale of landed property.
She was also alleged to have on October 16, 2016, made a false statement to the commission, while being interrogated by the agency’s operatives.
The alleged offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (2) (a) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011. And section 39(2) of the EFCC Act, 2004.