By Abdulwahab Abdulah
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has been told how some telephone conversation recorded exposed the alleged lies told by the embattled Federal High Court judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogibia to the investigating officers during investigation.
The Investigation officer was attached to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the agency which is prosecuting her for alleged corrupt practices.
Justice Ajumogobia is standing trial along with a former EFCC prosecutor, Godwin Obla.
When the investigation commenced and the investigators sought her attention to respond to some allegations, Justice Ajumogobia lied that she was on medical admission.
But unknown to her, the investigation had checked her to confirm the veracity or otherwise of her claim.
The recordings of the conversation were played today in court.
At today’s proceedings Mr. Abdullahi Lawal, an EFCC, operative, told a Lagos High court judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi that Justice Ajumogobia lied about the sum of 20 million paid into her bank account as proceeds from sales of a land.
The investigator, Mr. Lawal while being led in continuation of evidence by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo of the EFCC’s legal department for the third time testified that findings from the defendant indicated that the payment which she mentioned was a payment for sale of her land in Abeokuta to two persons, one Haruna Abdullahi and one Tola were false.
According to the witness, “During the course of investigation, we discovered that sometimes in February 2015, the sum of 8 million naira was paid into her Lordship account, Nigel and Colive Company account.
“She was confronted about the payment where she mentioned that the money was for the sale of her land at Abeokuta, that it was sold to two people: Haruna Abdullahi and one Tola.”
He added that further investigation revealed that Haruna was a Bureau De Change operator in Lagos and there was no transaction between the two, that is, the 1st defendant and the operator.
“Whereas Tola was a building contractor that handled the building of her residence at Park View Estate.”
He explained further that there was no transaction between them as regards the said sum.
Lawal’s evidence also included two audio recordings of telephone conversation between him and the embattled judge, played before the court, stating showed that when he initially tried to invite the judge on the payment of the said sum into her account, the investigator alleged that the judge lied she was ill and that she was in an hospital at Ikoyi but investigation showed that her claim was also false.
In one of the audio recordings played, the prosecution witness confirmed to the court that the voice of the caller and receiver were his and the judge.
Mr. Lawal: Hello Ma, are you still at the hospital?
The embattled judge: Yes, I am.
Mr. Lawal: Right now, we are here at the hospital and you are not there.
The embattled judge: Huh, are you there?
Mr. Lawal: Hello, Hello, Hello,..
In explaining further what transpired between them, the witness said, “As at the time this conversation ensued, I was at Gold Cross Hospital, Ikoyi.”
“What happened was that Honourable Ajumogobia phone went off when I was calling and the sound seized.”
He buttressed that the judge was not in the hospital and that was why he put across to her that call.
He explained that what prompted his visit to the hospital was as a result of the first phone conversation he had with her, which partly went thus:
The embattled judge: I have been on admission at Gold Cross.
Mr. Lawal: When do we expect you in our office?
The embattled judge: Let me get discharge, I’m not running away. I am not as sick as I think I am. Can I reach you on this line? Do you want to come there?
Mr. Lawal: No.
The embattled judge: What is your name?
Mr. Lawal: Abdullahi Lawal.
The prosecution witness added that based on this conversation, he went to the hospital to confirm the truthfulness of her claim but she was not there.
But while leading his witness, Oyedepo attempted to seek for amended charge when it appeared that Ajumogobia’s lawyer, Mr. Robert Clarke opposed the line of evidence claiming that the prosecutor derailed from the charge before the court and brought in evidence on another sum of 12 million naira against Clarke’s client.
Oyedepo led his witness to testify that one Omale Musa, an Assistant Controller- a Customs officer working at Abuja office also paid 4 million, 3 million and 5 million naira totalling 12 million naira into Ajumogobia’s account.
Meanwhile, the second defendant, Mr. Obla has again asked for permission of the court to travel to America between now and February.
Justice Oshodi who was visibly uncomfortable with four weeks absence however granted Obla access to his travel document in order to procure visa for his trip and ordered that it should be return to the court Registrar on or before 5th March and appear for further proceedings adjourned till 23rd February, 2018 for continuation of evidence-in-chief of the witness in the defendants’ trial.
It would be recall that Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Mr. Obla, SAN and former prosecutor of the EFCC.
They are jointly charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Obla is facing trial on two counts charge of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Ajumogobia, a public official while serving as a Federal High court judge.
The duo denied all the charges against them.