By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-An Abuja High Court at Maitama, has deferred the arraignment of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and his wife, Olabowale, who are facing corruption charges, till December 13.
Planned arraignment of the duo on Monday was stalled by inability of the Federal Government which is prosecuting them, to serve copies of the charge on the defendants.
Government lawyer, Mr. Shegu Jegede told the court that attempt by the bailiff to serve the charge on Justice Ademola last week proved abortive as he was told that the defendant travelled to Lagos.
Jegede said he wanted to apply for an order of substituted service before the defence lawyer, Mr. Jeph Njikonye, expressed his willingness to accept the charge on behalf of his clients pursuant to section 382(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which allows a lawyer to receive charge for a defendant.
The prosecution counsel stressed that section 390 of the ACJA provides for a minimum of seven working days before the date certified on the notice, for the defendants to appear for trial.
Besides, FG, applied to withdraw an initial 15-count charge dated November 14, saying it had on December 1, entered an amended 11-count charge against the defendants.
Meanwhile, the defence lawyer did not oppose FG’s request to withdraw the initial charge.
“We are not opposed to withdrawal of the initial charge. In the spirit of the ACJA which makes provision for expeditious disposal of criminal matters, we are prepared to accept service of the extant charge on the defendant.
“We shall be praying your lordship to grant the leave pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of this court and not under section 382(5).
“This is because Section 382(5) comes into place where personal service of charge on a defendant is impracticable or impossible.
“I am not aware of an attempt made by the bailiff to serve the charge on the defendant.
“I undertake that if my lord grant the application, the charge will be passed to the defendants and I assure that they will be in court on the next adjourned date for arraignment”, Njikonye submitted.
In a bench ruling, trial Justice Jude Okeke struck out the initial charge also marked CR/21/16.
The court said there was affidavit of none service deposed to by the bailiff who stated that his attempt to serve the defendants on December 2, proved abortive, as he was told that the defendant travelled to Lagos.
Consequently, the court, by consent of the parties, adjourned the matter till December 13 for arraignment.
Specifically, FG, alleged that Ademola who was among the seven superior court Judges whose homes were raided by operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, between October 7 and 8, and his wife, committed offences contrary to Section 8 of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act , 2011 and Section 115 of the Penal Code Law .
FG maintained that the offences were committed between February 2014 and June 2016.
The defendants allegedly received N40million between February 20 and 21, 2014 and another N30 million from Messers Joe Odey Agi and Associates between March 11 and 26, 2015.
Justice Ademola was said to have received N30 million from Agi who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, between March 11 and 26, 2015, with his wife who is a senior civil servant with the Lagos State Government, also pocketing another N30m from the same source.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, endorsed Charges against the accused Judge and his wife who is currently the Head of Service in Lagos State.
Remarkably, Adeniyi who is a grandson to a former Chief Justice of the Federation, is due to retire from the Federal High Court bench next year.
According to the prosecution, he had on May 6, 2013, received $520, 000:00 from Messrs Johnson & Johnson Solicitors and another N6m between February 25 and April 16, 2015.
Justice Ademola was further alleged to have accepted N55, 650, 000:00 from Messrs G.T. J Ademola & Co between January 5 and June 23 this year.
It was further alleged that Justice Ademola on February 20, 2014 accepted N40m from Vertice Solutions Limited, as well as accepted another N47, 600, 000: 00 from Acardian Energy Services Ltd .
Besides, FG, alleged that the Judge had on February 20, 2014, accepted N34, 080, 000:00 from one Omotayo Babafemi Aliyu and N4, 771, 300:00 from Lawan Suliaman between February 21 and November 7, 2014.
Justice Ademola is currently on administrative bail from the DSS, though the charge against him is yet to be assigned to any judge for trial.
FG earlier disclosed that it has lined-up three witnesses to testify against the defendants.
Those to testify against them are Babatunde Adepoju who took statement of the defendants, George Inyang who will testify on the Link Chart and a GT Bank PLC staff.
Among evidence to be tendered against the defendants include their Bank statements.
The embattled Judge had earlier fingered the AGF, Malami, SAN, as the brain behind his ordeal in hands of the DSS.
While seeking leave of the National Judicial Council, NJC, to drag the DSS to court for violating his fundamental rights, Justice Ademola, said that Malami instigated his arrest to take back his pound of flesh owing to a clash they had in the past whilst the AGF was practising as a lawyer in Kano.
Ademola who then served as a Judge of the Federal High Court, Kano Division, said he had reported Malami to the NJC for engaging in professional misconduct.
He said it took the intervention of Kano branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to save the AGF from being debarred, alleging that Malami got freed using a fake apology letter.
“What is more intriguing in this whole episode, is that I see it as a vendetta/revenge from the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. While I was in Kano between 2004 and 2007 as a Federal High Court judge, he was involved in a professional misconduct necessitating his arrest and detention by my order.
“However, with the intervention of the NBA, Kano branch, the allegation of misconduct was later withdrawn by me.
“Consequently, the NJC referred Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Nigerian Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee for disciplinary action.”
On the raid, Ademola denied that huge amount of money was found in his residence, saying he could however not determine how much was actually recovered, since the money was allegedly recovered from his house in his absence.
He said the DSS had aside accusing him of granting “unconstitutional bail” to Kanu and Dasuki, also told him 24 hours after his arrest that allegations for which he was being investigated included a petition by Mr. Jekins Duvie dated April 4, still pending before the NJC.
“After stating the grounds for the invasion as stated above, they requested explanation of the money found in my apartment, as well as two licensed firearms also found in my apartment.
“All the allegations that border on judicial decisions were supported with Certified True Copy of Proceedings showing that those applications were not opposed by the counsel representing the Department of State Services of the Federal Government of Nigeria”, the Judge added.
Giving a peep into what transpired that night, Ademola said mistook the the DSS operatives for armed robbers, “especially because this was at an ungodly hour of the night.”
He said the operatives numbering about 45 with all of them masked, storme his official residence at House 30, Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, on or about 12 am at midnight of the said day, Friday.
Ademola said he was awaken by the operatives’ loud sound of banging, breaking and hitting.
“They asked me to open the door and I responded, asking them, ‘Who are you?’ They answered ‘We are officers of the Department of State Services and we are here with a search warrant to search your house.’
“I told them to allow me to call my counsel. At this point, they had already began kicking at my door and after about three kicks, I got up and opened my bedroom door and let them in.
“To my surprise, I saw about 45 masked officers of the DSS, all heavily armed pointing their guns at me. They flashed a document purported to be a search warrant and ordered me to sign on a document claiming that they had already conducted a search downstairs.
“They also added that I was totally under their custody as I have always made an order against them (the DSS).
“I complied and upon signing the document, they told me that I was under arrest and ordered me with guns still pointed at me to move outside. As I was going, they told me they were taking me to their office without showing any warrant of arrest,” the letter read.
“I obeyed them and at about six o’clock in the morning, I was whisked away from my residence to the DSS office.
“From the time of my arrival at the DSS office, at about 6:45am on October 8, I was not told what my crime was for over 24 hours till the evening of October 9.
“A DSS official finally informed me that the search and my arrest were based on these three allegations: the petition of Hon. Jenkins Duvie dated April 4, 2016 to the National Judicial Council and granting bail to Col. Sambo Dasuki and the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu”, he stated.