The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal Office, on Thursday, April 18, 2019, re-arraigned Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on 18-count charge, bordering on breach of trust, false statement and unlawful enrichment. Ofili-Ajumogobia was charged alongside Godwin Obla, SAN.
The defendant allegedly received a sum of $655,000 (Six Hundred and Fifty-five Thousand Dollars) and N35million (Thirty-five Million Naira) in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015.
One of the charges reads: “That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, on or about the 11th day of July, 2014 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, indirectly concealed the total sum of N12, 000, 000.00 (Twelve Million Naira) in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel and Colive Ltd, opened and operated by you, which sum you reasonably ought to have known, forms parts proceeds of unlawful act to wit: criminal breach of trust.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia pleaded not guilty to charge when it was read to her. In view of her plea, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court for a trial date and prayed the court to remand the defendant in prison custody pending the determination of the case before the court.
However, the defence counsel, O. Akoni, SAN, told the court that “the defence filed a bail application this morning due to the fact that the defendant was served with the charge on Wednesday, April 17, 2019”.
He, therefore, urged the court to admit his client to bail.
In his response, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, who said he was served with the copy of the bail application in court this morning, said he would need time to peruse the affidavit in support of the motion for bail, since the defence relied on the motion.
The defence counsel Akoni, then withdrew the bail application and opted to make an oral application. Akoni, in his oral application, urged the court to take “judicial notice of the fact that the defendant is a judicial officer.
“The defendant is presumed innocent and the offences are bailable,” Akoni said. Oyedepo, however, urged the court to take a further judicial notice on the decision of the NJC on the defendant. (It could be recalled that the NJC has made a recommendation to the president for Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s sack).
Justice Aikawa, after listening to both parties, granted the defendant bail in the sum of N10million, with one surety in like sum.
The surety must be a civil servant not below Grade Level 16 or a person with a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court. The court also directed the defendant to deposit her international passport with the court’s registrar. The judge also held that the bail conditions must be perfected within 10 days.
Akoni, the defence counsel informed the court that the international passport of the defendant had been with a State High Court in Ikeja, Lagos and that application had been made to retrieve the passport. He assured the court that the passport would be provided before the close of work today.
He further prayed the court to release the defendant to the defence, pending the perfection of the bail conditions.
Justice Aikawa, consequently, ordered the defence to produce the international passport on or before 6.00p.m today and also ordered the release of the defendant to the defence counsel.
The Judge further ordered the second defendant, Obla, to appear before the court on May 15, 2019 and adjourned the case to May 15, 2019 for commencement of trial.
The first defendant, Ofili-Ajumogobia, was re-arrested by the operatives of the EFCC to enable the Commission prefer fresh criminal charges against her after a State High Court said it had no jurisdiction to hear the same suit, which she was being arraigned for today.
The Commission had, sometime last year, presented Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia before the National Judicial Council, NJC, for disciplinary action and the NJC had taken a position, recommending her dismissal.