By Onozure Dania
Lagos—THE embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mr. Rickey Tarfa SAN, standing trial for allegedly offering gratification to court officials, falsification of age and refusal to declare his assets, yesterday opened his defence, as he called the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Mr. Bello Okandeji, as a witness.
Tarfa is standing trial before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on 26 count charges.
He was accused of offering monetary gratification to two judges of the Federal High Court – Justices Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court and Justice Mohammed Yunusa of Lagos Division to allegedly pervert the course of justice.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that between June 27, 2012 and January 8, 2016, Tarfa paid N5.3million in several tranches into Justice Nganjiwa’s account.
He was also accused of paying into Justice Yunusa’s account, N800,000 in three tranches between February 9 and November 30, 2015.
The commission also accused the SAN of age falsification and refusal to declare his assets.
During his arraignment on March 9, 2016 and subsequent re-arraignment on November 16, 2016, Tarfa pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The EFCC had since opened and closed its case, while Tarfa opened his defence yesterday.
The SAN entered his defence after the court dismissed the no-case submission that he filed.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the DCR of the Federal High Court, Okandeji, was called to testify in his defence.
Okandeji who was led in evidence by the defendant’s counsel, Mr. Jelili Owonikoko (SAN), said he knew Tarfa very well as one of the counsels who appeared before the Federal High Court in Lagos on a daily basis.
Okandeji, who explained that his appearance in court was based on a subpoena issued on him by the trial judge, Justice Adedayo Akintoye, said he was not aware of any official complaint lodged to the Federal High Court authorities against Justices Nganjiwa and Yunusa.
He stated that he did not know Justice Nganjiwa before his appointment as a judge, but knew that Justice Yunusa previously worked at the industrial court before his appointment as a judge.
Okandeji also told the court in his evidence-in-chief that only the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and the administrative judges in different divisions of the court were in charge of assignment of cases to judges.