A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla, has denied an allegation of bribery payment of N5 million to Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of Federal High Court in Lagos.
In a statement yesterday, Obla said he did not manke any payment of N5 million or any other amount to Justice Ajumogobia.
According to him, the payment of N5 million under reference was a payment he made on May 21, 2015 to a company named Nigel & Colive Nigeria Ltd, for the purchase of building materials for his construction site in Abuja.
Obla further clarified that at that material time of the said commercial transaction and till date, he had no privy knowledge that Justice Ajumogobia has any interest whatsoever in the company.
He said when he honoured the invitation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for interview, the Acting Head of the STF team read incoherent portions of Justice Ajumogobia’s statement, alleging that the N5 million was part of purchase price of N40 million for a bungalow at Karshi, Abuja.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I have never purchased or made any payment for any bungalow in Karshi, Abuja or landed property, whatsoever from Justice Ajumogobia. On account of the foregoing, I was informed that the EFCC Chairman had directed that I be detained,” he explained.
Obla said he was shocked to be confronted with the allegation of possible bribery payments to Justice Ajumogobia ostensibly in return for judicial favours.
He insisted that there is no foundation or basis whatsoever for making any such payments.
Obla acknowledged that Justice Rita Ajumogobia was his classmate 33 years ago and has always been his friend but added that he had only minimal professional contact with the Judge.
According to him, the records would indicate that in all her years at the Bench, the only matter he had before her was the case of FRN v. Raymond Omatseye, which commenced in 2010 and terminated in 2016, wherein he acted as a prosecutor for EFCC.
“For the record, I re-state that the only matter in which I have ever appeared as a lawyer before her Lordship, Justice Rita Ajumogobia was in Charge No: FHC/L/C/482C/10 between FRN v. Raymond Omatseye whose trial commenced by a criminal charge dated 22 December 2010 before another Court and was later re-arraigned before her Lordship, Justice Rita Ajumogobia on an Amended 27 Count Charge dated 16 January 2013. I acted as Prosecutor for the EFCC and the trial culminated in the conviction of Mr. Raymond Omatseye in the judgment delivered by the court on 20 May 2016. Importantly, the conviction of Mr. Raymond Omatseye was very significant in the fight against corruption and was widely celebrated as the first conviction ever secured by the EFCC under the Public Procurement Act 2007,” he explained.
He alleged that notwithstanding the diligent and successful prosecution and conviction, the EFCC for whom he acted and who has deemed it a matter of public interest to make this bribery allegation has neither settled expenses he incurred over a six year period in prosecuting this matter nor paid any professional fee whatsoever in respect of the said matter.
Obla said he was at a loss as to why on earth he would be obliged to pay out bribe to Justice Ajumogobia for judicial favours since the only case he had ever taken before her court was as a prosecutor on behalf of EFCC in a criminal charge which terminated in a landmark conviction for EFCC.
“It is inconceivable that I paid a bribe on behalf of or for the benefit of EFCC to her Lordship, Justice Rita Ajumogobia or any other person,” he said.
Obla alleged that all the lawyers who were interviewed yesterday at the EFCC office in respect of various payments to judicial officers were all granted bail on self-cognisance, except him.
He described it as a mystery that after his meritorious service to EFCC in various capacities, particularly as a prosecutor in no less than 40 cases involving economic and financial crimes and securing convictions, for which his bill of charges continues to lie unsettled at EFCC, the present leadership has elected to treat him with disdain and needlessly detained him in its custody, without the benefit of doubt.