Read previous post on case here.
Trial continued yesterday in the criminal charge against Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla SAN with the investigating officer from EFCC, continuing with his testimony for the third time in the proceedings.
Before the witness was recalled, Justice Oshodi delivered his ruling on the admissibility of a document relating to a mortgage in the United Kingdom involving Silversteps Incorporated, which was traced to Justice Ajumogobia. Justice Ajumogobia’s lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke had objected to the admissibility of the document on the ground that it did not relate to any count in the charge. The prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo had argued that the document related to count 5 of the charge and submitted that it was admissible given the testimony of the witness of how the Commission traced the N18million referred to in count 5 of the charge to the purchase of the property in the United Kingdom. In his ruling, Justice Oshodi agreed with Chief Clarke that the document is not relevant to count 5 or any other count in the charge. He held that count 5 relates to unlawful enrichment in the sum of N18 million received from Arkleen Oil and Gas Limited and there was nothing in the particulars of the charge that referred to any property or mortgage in the United Kingdom. The document was thus rejected.
EFCC’s twelfth witness continued with his testimony concluding on count 5 and giving evidence in relation to counts 6 to 28 of the charge accusing the Judge of unlawful enrichment in different sums. Clarifying some parts of his earlier testimony in relation to the N18 million the judge received from Arkleen Oil and Gas Limited, he testified that the Managing Director of Arkleen Oil and Gas Limited had informed the Commission that the judge had told him that she would return the money within a short period of time but afterwards stopped picking his calls. He further told the Commission that he went to her house but she refused to see him, on another occasion he sent his driver but she refused to attend to him and at the time of the investigation she had not repaid the money. He further clarified that the sole director of Silversteps Incorporated, Aribim Ajumogobia, the judge’s daughter is still a staff of NIMASA and is only on a 5-years study leave with pay.
He thereafter went on to testify about various sums the Commission noticed in the judge’s statements of account. He began with sums found in her domiciliary account with Diamond Bank which includes the sum of $120,000 paid into her account between 10th and 30th of May 2013, the sum of $20,000 paid into her account on the 11th of June 2013, the sum of $50,000 paid in on the 27th of March 2014, the sum of $150,000 on the 29th of March 2014, the sum of $70,000 on the 2nd of June 2014, the sum of $20,000 on the 19th of June 2014, the sum of $55,000 on the 14th of October 2014, the sum of $50,000 on the 21st of November 2014, another sum of $50,000 on the 20th of December 2014, the sum of $30,000 between the 17th to 19th of June 2015 and the sum of $10,000 on the 6th of July 2015.
He also testified of sums the Commission noticed in the account of Nigel & Colive Ltd operated by the Judge. He testified of the sum of N7.5 Million paid in on the 20th of June 2014 by a Paul, the sum of N8 million paid in on the 4th of February 2015 by a Grand Bee Limited, and the sum of N18 million paid in on the 29th of January 2016 by a Saheed Danlami Abba, a Bureau De change operator. He stated that the company was not carrying on any business. He testified of the sum of N12, 270,000 paid into her personal Naira account between the 7th of January to the 30th of December 2013 and different sums paid into her dollar account including the sum of $10,000 on the 11th of August 2011, $9,900 on the 17th of August 2011, another sum of $9,900 on the 14th of February 2012, $10,000 on the 20th of February 2012, another deposit of the sum of $10,000 on the 29th of February 2012 and a deposit of $9,900 on the 27th of March 2012.
He testified that these sums do not form part of the lawful income of the judge who received her salaries, allowances and emoluments from the Federal High Court in an account domiciled in Access Bank. He stated that the Commission made enquires about the income of the judge in those years and from a response sent to the Commission from the Federal High Court, in 2013 Justice Ajumogobia was paid an annual salary of N5, 032, 784.85 and a total sum of N7, 571, 874 as allowances. In 2016, her annual salary from the Federal High Court was the sum of N2, 997, 138.36 while her allowances was N13, 732, 291.12.
On the various sums deposited in her domiciliary and Naira accounts, he testified that when she was confronted on the source of the monies, she tried to explain them but could not satisfactorily do so. In respect of the payment of the sum of $20,000 paid on the 11th of June 2013, he testified that the payment was by one Senator Anthony Manzo and the judge had stated that it was a gift from him. He stated that the Commission could not confirm this from the senator as he did not pick his calls or reply to text messages sent to him by the Commission and added that the Judge did not have any felicitations, neither was there any event around that period of time necessitating such a gift.
He also testified that the judge had stated that the payment of $150,000 made on the 29th of March 2014 was a gift from her brother, Donald Ofili. Her brother had at first confirmed that it was indeed a gift from him which he paid into her account personally but investigations revealed that it was the judge’s account officer, Mr. Ademola Oshodi that paid in the money after collecting it in cash from the judge herself as he usually did though he filled in the name of her brother as the depositor. He testified that the instrument used to pay in the sum was placed before both Mr. Ademola Oshodi and Mr. Donald Ofili under video coverage and it was indisputable that it was Mr. Oshodi that filled the teller that paid in the money. He also testified that Mr. Ofili could not explain how he came about the sum of money he gave his sister as a gift. The Commission checked his personal statement of account as well as that of his company, RKD Oil & Gas Ltd and it was impossible for him to raise that sum of money.
He testified that the judge had further informed the Commission that the various deposits into her naira and domiciliary accounts were from sale of her properties located in Benin and Asaba. The Commission thus organized a trip to Asaba to locate the properties and took the Judge along. He informed the court that before the party left Lagos, he had spoken to the Judge’s lawyer whom she stated handled her properties in Asaba on the phone and the lawyer had stated that he was expecting them. Surprisingly, when they were close to Asaba the Judge informed him that the lawyer has left Asaba and he indeed spoke to the lawyer who stated that he had left Asaba for a function but would be back by the time the team got to Asaba. When the team entered the town of Asaba, the lawyer’s phones were switched off and the judge said she could not locate the properties as it was the lawyer that dealt with them. One of the members of the team noticed that Justice Ajumogobia kept making calls and because of her history of interfering their investigations by contacting people she perceived would be invited by the Commission they seized her phones. They were forced to stay in Asaba overnight and the next day they could still not locate either the lawyer or any of the properties. They thus had to return to Lagos. They however noticed Justice Ajumogobia still making telephone calls despite the phones seized from her.
The witness stated that he called the legal department and informed them of their experience and the telephone calls made by the judge despite the phones seized from her and by the time they arrived at the Commission’s office, a video coverage had been arranged in one of the offices. The judge was informed of their suspicions of her disrupting their investigations and asked her to surrender all other phones with her. She surrendered one phone. She was subsequently searched by female operatives who found three more phones.
Her lawyer in Asaba, Mr. Frank Ezenwa was invited by the Commission and when he was interviewed he stated that he had only sold one property for the judge and had transferred the sum of N9, 750,000 to her for the sale. He did not know of any other properties.
In respect of the properties located in Benin which she claimed she had sold and received proceeds from, he testified that the Judge had told the Commission that it was her brother, Donald Ofili that had information about them and could locate them. Donald however told the Commission that he had not been to Benin in ages and could not locate the properties.
He concluded by stating that the Judge could therefore not satisfactorily explain the source of all the monies in her accounts, as the monies did not form part of her income from the Federal High Court.
The prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo informed the court that before the witness concludes his examination-in-chief, he would like to play the recordings already tendered in the proceedings and asked for an adjournment in order to bring the equipment to do so.
The charge was thus subsequently adjourned to the New Year for continuation of trial.