A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday, discharged embattled Federal High Court judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, of the money laundering charges brought against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Ambrose Lewis Allagoa upheld Ofili-Ajumogobia’s argument, among others, that the recommendations of the National Judicial Council (NJC) which recommended her prosecution had been quashed by Justice Binta M. Nyako of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
Justice Lewis Allagoa discharged Ofili-Ajumogobia of the allegations, while granting an application to quash and dismiss the charges, filed and argued by her counsel, Mr. Olawale Akoni (SAN).
Akoni (SAN) argued that Justice Nyako’s judgment delivered on November 28, 2019, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/638/2018, between Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili Ajumogobia and the NJC, quashed the NJC’s report and recommendation and that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia had been reinstated.
But Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its counsel Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application.
He relied on a counter affidavit deposed to by John Michael Idoko, attached to the Chairman’s Monitoring Unit, who stated that the court had the jurisdiction to hear and determine the allegation of money laundering levelled against the defendant. Idoko averred that by a petition dated December 28, 2017, to the NJC, the Commission accused Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia of various acts constituting misconduct under the Code of Conduct of Judicial Officers
The deponent averred that on September 18, 2018, the NJC’s investigating committee, upon the conclusion of the hearing of a petition, submitted its report to the Chairman of the Council recommending appropriate sanctions to be imposed on Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia by the Council.
He added that on November 7, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari exercised his constitutional power pursuant to section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and dismissed Ofili-Ajumogobia as a judge of the Federal High Court.
The deponent stated that upon the exercise of the aforementioned constitutional power, the President equally transmitted a letter to the NJC informing it of his decision.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, he argued, was never acquitted of the offences contained in the instant charge in any court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
He also stated that the NJC’s findings and the recommendation to the President and the President’s letter to the Council were all on record before the court.
He started further that the EFCC had seen the Detendant/Applicant’s exhibit wherein Justice Nyako in Suit No, FHC/ABJ/CS/638/2018 held thus: “Consequent on the above finding, I hereby set aside all that the Respondent did in respect of this matter premised on the same issues as in the subject matter of the trial before the High Court Of Lagos State.”
Ruling on the arguments canvassed by the parties, Justice Allagoa held: “I have looked at the application. I have also looked into the counter-affidavit of the prosecution; it does not indeed controvert the application.
“I am satisfied that the application has merit, the prayers sought for are hereby granted as prayed.”
The judgment ends, at least for now, the defendant’s over two years battle to stave off judicial condemnation over the allegations.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was arraigned on April 18, 2019, before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, alongside, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Godwin Obla on an 18-count charge of unlawful enrichment, illegal concealment, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the duo conspired to indirectly conceal the sum of N5,000,000.00 in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel Et Colive Ltd, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: unlawful enrichment.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charge.