• Court grants Justice Ngwuta more time to prepare defence
Embattled Justice of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, got the shock of her life yesterday morning, as operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invaded her home at about 5.00 a.m. to conduct a search.
The Guardian gathered that the men of the anti-graft agency, who arrived in their numbers, surrounded the Park View Estate, Lagos residence of the judge.According to the Head, Public Affairs of the Lagos zone of the commission, Samin Amaddin, the operatives went to the house in search of Ofili-Ajumogobia’s daughter, Aridim Tochukwu and son, Goziem.
He told The Guardian that during the course of investigation, they discovered that the United Kingdom account in which she was lodging monies was opened by her daughter.
“We sent a letter to her house, inviting the daughter and she did not appear or respond. When she was arraigned at the Lagos High Court, the lady surprisingly appeared. Before we could approach her, she sneaked away. We reminded her mother of the invitation and she promised she would honour it but never did.
“So, on Tuesday, we got intelligence report that the lady is in town and decided to go and get her. But we did not see her. We only saw her mother, who promised to bring her to our office later in the day. She fulfilled her promise and brought two of them to our office. So they are presently in our office undergoing interrogation,” Amaddin said.
Wondering why EFCC would conduct such a surprise raid on the home of a person who has already been arraigned in court, one of Ofili-Ajumogobia’s lawyers said the action was unlawful and an abuse of human right.
The EFCC had arraigned Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia alongside Mr. Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on November 28 this year before Justice O.H. Oshodi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja on a 30-count charge ranging from conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, offering gratification to a public official and unlawful enrichment by public official among others.
Ajumogobia and Obla were in EFCC detention since early November before their arraignment.The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. Thereafter, counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) and counsel to Obla, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) moved applications for them to be granted bail.
They were granted bail in the sum of N20 million and on self-recognition.Meanwhile, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja division, has granted Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court six weeks to prepare his defence for the16-count charge of corruption levelled against him by the Federal Government.
The trial was scheduled to begin yesterday with the first prosecution witness testifying but at the resumed hearing, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), informed the court that even though they were anxious to defend themselves, they still have a number of documents to study to allow for efficient defence.
In opposing the application, the prosecution counsel, Charles Adeogun-Philips told d the court that it would be unfortunate for the defence counsel to ask for an adjournment since the trial was fixed for yesterday with the consent of all the parties in the matter.
He also urged the court to consider the fact that it was a high-profile case that required efficient administration of the Criminal Justice Act.According to him: “Section 396(4) of ACJA provides for a day to day trial upon arraignment until conclusion of the trial.”
Ruling, the judge said in view of the defence’s unpreparedness for trial and his prayer for more time, the court was disposed to granting the request of the team.
According to Justice Tsoho, the Section 36 (6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, which the defence relied on superseded Section 396(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which the prosecution hinged his objection.