Justice Ngwuta Arraigned, Gets N100m Bail on Self-Recognition

  • EFCC files charges against Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, Obla

Tobi Soniyi and Alex Enumah in Abuja

Embattled Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court was arraigned monday and granted N100 million bail by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, where he is being tried for alleged corruption and money laundering.

In Lagos, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also filed a 30-count charge against a Federal High Court judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, and senior lawyer, Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN) for alleged corruption.
Trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, granted Justice Ngwuta bail on self-recognition following an application for bail filed and argued by his legal team, led by Kanu Agabi (SAN).

Delivering ruling on the bail application, Justice Tsoho, who held that the offences in which the defendant was being prosecuted were bailable, dismissed the objection of the prosecution on unfounded fears and inconsistency.

He submitted that the Department of State Services (DSS), having deposed to an affidavit of completion of investigation on October 8, 2016, cannot come around to say the defendant would interfere with evidence if granted bail.

Justice Tsoho, also while dismissing the claim by the prosecution that the defendant will evade trial if granted bail, stated that the same prosecution had established that all the travelling documents of the defendant had been seized from him and that they are watching him with a view to countering any step to evade trial.

The trial judge held that to deny the application on the grounds of unfounded fears of the prosecution would amount to doing the defendant a great injustice.

Justice Tsoho adjourned till 7th and 8th December for the commencement of the trial.

The federal government yesterday arraigned Justice Ngwuta before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on a 16-count charge of corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes.

When the charges were read to the defendant, he pleaded not guilty to all them. His counsel subsequently applied for his bail, arguing that the offences against the defendant were bailable.

Justice Ngwuta was one of eight judges whose homes were raided by the DSS last month on allegations of corruption.

Meanwhile, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla were charged to court yesterday by the EFCC on allegations of corruption.

The defendants are said to have committed the offence on May 21, 2015, by conspiring to pervert the course of justice with the sum of N5 million.
The said sum of money was alleged to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Limited in relation to charge number FHC/L/C/482/10.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was said to be the sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Limited.

Both defendants were said to have conspired to pervert the course of justice in contravention of the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.
In counts one to four, Obla was said to have offered gratification in the said sum, by transferring the money from his company’s account, Obla & Co., domiciled with the United Bank for Africa (UBA), to Nigel & Colive.

The said transfer was alleged to have been made in order to restrain a public officer from acting in the exercise of her official duties.

In count five, Ajumogobia was said to have unlawfully enriched herself by receiving a transfer of N18 million from one Arkleem Oil and Gas Ltd to her Diamond Bank account.

In counts six to 20, the judge was alleged to have also received transfers from various outlets to her Diamond Bank account to the tune of over $788,000.

All offences were contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011, as well as the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

The charges against Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla are pending before a Lagos High Court, while no date has been fixed for their arraignment.

Even as he was being charged to court, Obla, a former prosecutor for the EFCC, yesterday asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to declare his continued detention by the commission as unlawful.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla have been in the custody of the commission for the past 10 days, pending the conclusion of its investigations.

However, Obla, through his counsel, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), brought an application praying the court to declare as unlawful his continued detention.
Adedipe informed the court that he had a written address in support of his application, as well as a further and better affidavit, and an affidavit of urgency all filed on November 14.

In his argument, Adedipe urged the court to hold that the continued detention of Obla, as well as the seizure of his mobile phones, constituted an infringement on his rights to liberty and ownership of property.

He told the court that the applicant, who was also a one-time prosecutor for the EFCC, was invited to the commission on November 8 when he was unduly detained till date.

In response, the counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the applicant’s processes for lack of merit.

Oyedepo argued that on November 8 after the applicant was detained, investigations could not be concluded and so on November 9, an application was brought before a Magistrate’s Court for a remand order.

He said that the court, which was empowered by the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, granted a remand order for 14 days, adding that this was even in the presence of the applicant.

After listening to the submissions of the counsel, Justice Mohammed Idris fixed November 25 for ruling on the application.