on Thursday, April 18, 2019, re-arraigned Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia
before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, sitting in
Ikoyi, Lagos on 18-count charge, bordering on breach of trust, false
statement and unlawful enrichment.
Ofili-Ajumogobia was charged alongside Godwin Obla, SAN.
The defendant allegedly received a sum of $655,000 (Six Hundred and
Fifty-five Thousand Dollars) and N35million (Thirty-five Million Naira)
in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015.
One of the charges reads: “That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi
Ofili-Ajumogobia, on or about the 11th day of July, 2014 in Nigeria,
within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, indirectly concealed
the total sum of N12, 000, 000.00 (Twelve Million Naira) in the Diamond
Bank account of Nigel and Colive Ltd, opened and operated by you, which
sum you reasonably ought to have known, forms parts proceeds of unlawful
act to wit: criminal breach of trust.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia pleaded not guilty to charge when it was read to her.
In view of her plea, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the
court for a trial date and prayed the court to remand the defendant in
prison custody pending the determination of the case before the court.
However, the defence counsel, O. Akoni, SAN, told the court that “the
defence filed a bail application this morning due to the fact that the
defendant was served with the charge on Wednesday, April 17, 2019”. He,
therefore, urged the court to admit his client to bail.
In his response, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, who said he was
served with the copy of the bail application in court this morning, said
he would need time to peruse the affidavit in support of the motion for
bail, since the defence relied on the motion.
The defence counsel Akoni, then withdrew the bail application and opted
to make an oral application.
Akoni, in his oral application, urged the court to take “judicial notice
of the fact that the defendant is a judicial officer.
“The defendant is presumed innocent and the offences are bailable,”
Akoni said. Oyedepo, however, urged the court to take a further judicial
notice on the decision of the NJC on the defendant. (It could be
recalled that the NJC has made a recommendation to the president for
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s sack).
Justice Aikawa, after listening to both parties, granted the defendant
bail in the sum of N10million, with one surety in like sum. The surety
must be a civil servant not below Grade Level 16 or a person with a
landed property within the jurisdiction of the court. The court also
directed the defendant to deposit her international passport with the
court’s registrar. The judge also held that the bail conditions must be
perfected within 10 days.
Akoni, the defence counsel informed the court that the international
passport of the defendant had been with a State High Court in Ikeja,
Lagos and that application had been made to retrieve the passport. He
assured the court that the passport would be provided before the close
of work today. He further prayed the court to release the defendant to
the defence, pending the perfection of the bail conditions.
Justice Aikawa, consequently, ordered the defence to produce the
international passport on or before 6.00p.m today and also ordered the
release of the defendant to the defence counsel.
The Judge further ordered the second defendant, Obla, to appear before
the court on May 15, 2019 and adjourned the case to May 15, 2019 for
commencement of trial.
The first defendant, Ofili-Ajumogobia, was re-arrested by the operatives
of the EFCC to enable the Commission prefer fresh criminal charges
against her after a State High Court said it had no jurisdiction to hear
the same suit, which she was being arraigned for today.
The Commission had, sometime last year, presented Justice
Ofili-Ajumogobia before the National Judicial Council, NJC, for
disciplinary action and the NJC had taken a position, recommending her