The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Thursday, December 19, 2019, upheld the conviction and sentencing of Dr. Joseph Nwobike, SAN, to one-month imprisonment.
Nwobike was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before Justice R.I.B. Adebiyi of the State High Court, Ikeja, Lagos on an 18-count charge bordering on an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
One of the counts reads: “One of the counts reads: “That you Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) on the 19th day of March, 2015 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, intentionally gave the sum of N 750,000.00 (Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) to Hon. Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court directly through your United Bank for Africa Plc Account No. 1002664061 in order that the said judge acts in the exercise of his official duties”.
Another count reads: ” That you, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), on the 15th day of December, 2014 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, intentionally and directly gave the sum of N 250,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) to one Mrs. Ogunleye Helen Aderonke, Senior Executive officer, Federal High Court Lagos judicial division in order that the said Mrs. Ogunleye Helen Aderonke acts in the exercise of her official duties.”
Nwobike pleaded not guilty to the charge, thereby leading to his full trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, presented several witnesses and tendered various documents that were admitted in evidence by the court.
Delivering her judgment on April 30, 2018, Justice Adebiyi said the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubts and with credible evidence that the convict perverted the course of justice.
Justice Adebiyi found Nwobike guilty on 12 counts of perversion of Justice out of the 18 counts preferred against him by the EFCC.
Consequently, Justice Adebiyi sentenced Nwobike to one month imprisonment on each of the 12 counts.
Dissatisfied, the convict subsequently approached the appellate court seeking to set aside the judgment of the trial court.
The applicant, through his lawyer, Olawale Akoni, SAN, contended, amongst other things, that the allegation of attempt to pervert the cause of justice for which he was convicted was not proved by the EFCC.
The applicant also described the judgment as “unreasonable and unwarranted.”
However, the appellate court, in a judgment delivered by Justice Ebiowei Tobi, took into consideration whether Section 97(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State ACJL, upon which Nwobike was convicted, defined the offence; whether the conviction was based on rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners; whether the court was right to have convicted him and whether the court had enough evidence to prove perversion of justice.
On whether Section 97(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State ACJL, upon which Nwobike was convicted, defined the offence, the appellate court resolved in favour of the EFCC that Section 97(3) of the ACJL did not contradict with Section 36(12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and said that the offence of perversion was defined.
The appellate court also held that the decision by the High Court was based on facts as contained in Exhibit P22, which is the phone conversation between the convict and one Jide, a staff of the court and not professional conduct.
The appellate court, therefore, resolved in favour of the EFCC that the conviction was not based on non-penal provision.
Also, on the issue of whether the court was right to have convicted him or whether the court had enough evidence to prove on perversion of justice, the appellate court further held that the arguments of the convict were not necessary and that the EFCC proved its case that the convict had a criminal mind to interfere with the assignment of cases and that he was guilty of attempts to pervert justice.
The appellate court further held that It is unethical for a Judge to receive money from a lawyer, especially when he has a matter before him.
However, the appellate court held that the prosecution did not prove that the sum of N750,000 given to Justice Muhammed Yunusa was for perversion of justice.
Consequently, the appellate court reversed the decision of the High Court and found him not guilty on counts 3, 12 and 14.
The appellate court, however, agreed with the lower court on counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 17.
Justice Tobi, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.