By Henry Ojelu
LAGOS—THERE was a drama at the premises of Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, yesterday, as officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, re-arrested a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia after corruption charge against her was dismissed.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was arraigned along with Godwin Obla, SAN, for allegedly receiving $793,800 in several tranches from different sources from 2012 to 2015.
The EFCC which had initially closed its case against the judge on September 14, 2018 after calling 12 witnesses and tendering several documents, later turnaround to ask the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
The EFCC request was sequel to an application filed by Ofili-Ajumogobia’s counsel, Chief Robert Clarke, SAN, urging the court to discharge and acquit her.
The commission’s lead prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, in response to the application, admitted that the charge brought against Ofili-Ajumogobia, was indeed not in line with the guidelines of the National Judicial Council, NJC.
In his ruling, Justice Hakeem Oshodi dismissed the charges against Ofili-Ajumogobia, and frowned at the EFCC for wasting the time of the court.
Justice Oshodi said: “As at December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjuwa versus FRN. As at that date, the amended information was yet to be filed and the 12th prosecution witness was still giving evidence.
“The prosecution persisted like a bull running amok and still called two more witnesses and precious judicial time was wasted. We have not found a way in the judicial atmosphere to discipline or penalize an agency of government through fines or costs. In conclusion, the court has no jurisdiction to hear the first amended charge of February 21, 2018 of 31-counts. This suit is hereby struck out.”
Drama outside court room
Immediately after the ruling, about 10a.m, EFCC officials led siege to Ofili-Ajumogobia outside the courtroom.
Shortly after dismissing the suit, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, who wore plastic pop on her right leg, exited the courtroom with her husband but as she descended the staircase, she realised that EFCC officials were waiting to arrest her.
She fled back into the courtroom while Justice Oshodi was still presiding over other matters.
Her husband, who was waiting downstairs, later joined her as officials of the agency continued to wait for her.
When it appeared she could no longer bear the pressure, she called out to the judge saying, “My Lord save me,” but the judge replied saying, “There is nothing I can do, your file has been closed.”
The embattled judge became restless, pacing up and down the court balcony and making frantic phone calls.
When it dawned on her that there was no help in sight, she eventually submitted herself to the EFCC.
She was led into the waiting white truck with registration number Abuja BWA 63780 by about 10 EFCC operatives, who had stormed the court.
As she attempted to board the vehicle, another drama ensued when officials of the agency attempted to sandwich her between two men.
She was left alone when she insisted on sitting at the edge. While the drama lasted, her husband was prevented from coming near the vehicle.
Why we re-arrested Ofili-Ajumogobia — EFCC
Meanwhile, the EFCC, in a statement, said:“In view of today’s (yesterday’s) ruling by Justice Oshodi and having complied with the NJC procedure, the Commission is set to prefer fresh criminal charges against the first defendant, Ofili-Ajumogobia.”
Her re-arrest, sheer wickedness—Fani-Kayode
Reacting to the re-arrest of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, a former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode said: “EFCC’s case against Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia was thrown out by Justice Oshodi of the Ikeja High Court today with harsh words. Despite this, she was held hostage by the EFCC in the court premises for one hour and now she has been re-arrested and taken to their Lagos office.
“All this despite the fact that she is innocent of any wrongdoing, despite the fact that she is a lady, despite the fact that she has been subjected to and suffered immense trauma due to this case over the last two years and despite the fact that one of her legs is now broken and in a cast.”
“This is not justice: it is sheer wickedness. I appeal to President Buhari to put a stop to this wholesale, vindictive and vicious persecution and to call the EFCC to order. If we do not fear man we should at least fear God.”