Nigeria: Corruption Trial of Nigerian Judge, Senior Lawyer Stalled

2 December 2019

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday suspended proceedings until February 6, 2020 in the Money Laundering trial of a former Judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

Justice Mohammed Aikawa said that proceedings would be suspended to await the outcome of a letter to the chief judge of the court, seeking re-assignment of the case.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, on 18 counts bordering on conspiracy, unlawful enrichment, retention of crime proceeds and money laundering.

The defendants were re-arraigned on May 15 but pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

The court granted them bail in the sum of N10 million each, with two sureties in like sum.

Robert Clarke appeared for the former judge at all times, while Ferdinand Orbih appeared for the second defendant, Mr Obla.

When the case was called on Monday, Mr U.U. Buhari appeared for the prosecution while Messrs Mobolaji Kuti and Ferdinard Orbih appeared for the first and second defendants, respectively.

Mr Buhari informed the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with the trial, but Mr Orbih said that the defence wrote a letter to the chief judge of the court on November 14, seeking the re-assignment of the case.

He added that defence notified the trial court of the development, on November 26, through a letter.

Mr Orbih then urged the court to grant a time frame to enable the chief judge to respond.

In response, Mr Buhari told the court that he had not seen the letter and was also not aware if the EFCC was served.

He urged that such a letter should not operate as a stay of proceedings in the case.

Mr Aikawa consequently adjourned the case.

"I hereby stay proceedings till Feb. 6, pending the decision of the CJ - chief judge - on the issue," he said.

The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiracy on May 21, 2014, to indirectly conceal different sums of money in a bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd., a company alleged to be operated by Ajumogobia.

The commission also alleged that they conspired to retain in the account, the sum of N500 million, which formed part of proceeds of unlawful acts.

It said that Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia, on different dates in 2014, retained sums such as N5 million, 150,000 dollars, 20,000 dollars, 30,000 dollars, 50,000 dollars and 55,000 dollars in the account.

The EFCC also accused Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia of indirectly concealing N12 million in the same account, and making a false statement to the EFCC that the money was from the sale of landed property.

The alleged offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (2) (a) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

(NAN)

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