A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja on Thursday varied the conditions attached to the bail granted Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), who are facing charges of bribery and unlawful enrichment.
The serving judge and the SAN were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on November 28, 2016 on 30 counts before Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Following their not guilty plea to all the charges, Justice Oshodi granted them bail on self-recognisance with a condition that they must each deposit N20m and their passports into the custody of the chief registrar of the court.
Justice Oshodi said the bail would be revoked if the defendants failed to meet the conditions within seven days.
The case was eventually adjourned till January 9, 2017.
But Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla, together with their lawyers, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) and Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) respectively, appeared before Justice Oshodi on Thursday, with separate applications seeking the variation of the bail terms.
Akoni and Adedipe told Justice Oshodi that their clients had found it impossible to raise N20m each as ordered by the court and urged the court to vary the terms.
In the application filed on her behalf by Akoni, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia said the N20m imposed on her was excessive.
She said she had no such funds particularly as the EFCC had placed a ‘No Debit Order’ on her bank accounts since the commencement of investigation into the case, adding that she had been living only on the goodwill of her family and friends.
Akoni urged Justice Oshodi to allow his client to deposit the N20m in bail bond rather than cash.
On his own part, Obla, through his lawyer, Adedipe, also described the N20m he was ordered to deposit as excessive, noting that the sum involved in the charge against him was N5m.
He urged the court to allow him deposit the N20m in an insurance bail bond or to deposit N5m cash.
“We humbly pray My Lord to vary the condition that the second defendant should deposit N20m to the registrar of the court. We are passionately appealing for that. We are willing to even submit an insurance bond to demonstrate our willingness.
“We don’t have that money now but we plead with Your Lordship most passionately to grant this application and pray that my learned friend will not oppose it,” Adedipe told Justice Oshodi while arguing his client’s application.
Both defendants also prayed the court to order the EFCC to immediately transmit their passports to the chief registrar of the court as ordered by the judge.
Responding, however, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, confirmed the receipt of the defendants’ applications, adding that a further affidavit to the applications was served on him on Thursday.
Specifically, he said though he was not inclined to opposing Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s application, the defendant raised serious issues touching on his personality in the further affidavit to which he needed time to respond to.
“Ordinarily, we would have loved to react on oath to the issues raised but if the applicant is willing to abandon that further affidavit, I will leave the application to the overriding discretionary power of the court,” Oyedepo said.
Akoni subsequently withdrew the further affidavit.
Ruling on the applications after standing the matter down for hours, Justice Oshodi said he was inclined to exercise his discretionary power in favour of the defendants more so as the EFCC had not opposed the applications.
He granted the prayer by Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla to execute a N20m bail bond with the chief registrar of the Lagos State High Court rather than deposit cash within seven days from Thursday.
He also ordered the defendants to swear to affidavits of means.
Justice Oshodi, however, said the defendants’ prayer seeking an order directing the EFCC to immediately surrender their passports to the court registrar was “not well founded” because the passports were already in the custody of the court.
He adjourned the case till January 9, 2017.
In the charges, the EFCC alleged that Obla, while appearing in a suit numbered FHC/L/C/482c/2010 before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, offered a gratification of N5m to the judge to allegedly induce the judge to refrain from acting in the exercise of her official duties as a public officer.
Obla, the EFCC claimed, paid the money from the account of his company, Obla & Company Limited, with the United Bank for Africa, to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia through the bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd in Diamond Bank Plc.
The EFCC claimed that the judge and the SAN acted contrary to sections 64 (1) and 97 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
But they both pleaded not guilty to the offence.
In 24 out of the 30 counts, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was accused of unlawfully enriching herself as a public officer contrary to the provision of Section 82(a) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State No. 11, 2011.
The judge was accused of receiving a total of $793,800 in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015 “so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain the increase in relation to your lawful income.”
The judge was further accused of forging a deed of assignment between County City Bricks Development Co. Ltd and Nigel & Colive Ltd dated July 5, 2010, which the EFCC claimed was purportedly prepared and signed by Charles Musa & Co.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 467 of the Criminal Code, Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.
In count 30, the EFCC accused Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia of giving false information to one of its operatives, Lawal Abdullahi, on October 19, 2016, by allegedly claiming on the telephone to be on admission at Gold Cross Hospital, Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, while she was not there.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 39(2)(a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004. (Punchng.com)