Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who was charged with unlawful enrichment and money laundering, has objected to being tried afresh before the Federal High Court in Lagos after the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja on April 16 struck out the 31 counts filed against her and Chief Godwin Obla (SAN).
Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja struck out the charges against Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission applied for the withdrawal of the charges.
The anti-graft agency said it realised that it failed to abide by the decision of the Court of Appeal which held that a serving judge could not be prosecuted unless first investigated and sanctioned by the National Judicial Council.
However, following the striking out of the charges by Justice Oshodi on April 16, operatives of the EFCC, who had laid in wait, immediately picked Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia up on the court premises and took her into custody.
She was two days later taken before Justice Rilwan Aikawa at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos for fresh arraignment.
She was arraigned on that day on an amended 18 counts, to which she pleaded not guilty and she was granted bail in the sum of N10m.
At the request of the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, Justice Aikawa also issued a summons on Obla, who was absent from the court on April 16, to appear before him on May 15 to take his own plea.
At the resumed proceedings on Wednesday, Obla was in court alongside his lawyer, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), who told the court that his client’s absence at the last proceedings was not out of disrespect but because he was not aware.
Orbih said he only got to know about the proceedings in the newspapers, after which he applied for a copy of the charge sheet.
Both Obla and Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia were both arraigned afresh on the 18 counts, to which they pleaded not guilty.
Justice Aikawa allowed Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia to continue on the N10m bail she was granted on April 16 while he granted Obla a N10m bail with two sureties in like sum, who must be landed property owners in Lagos, or be civil servants not below Grade Level 16 in the employment of the Federal Government.
The judge ordered him to deposit his passport in the court’s custody.
While handing him over to his lawyer, Justice Aikawa said Obla must perfect the bail within 10 days.
However, counsel for Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), notified the judge of his client’s decision to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charges against her.
Clarke called the judge’s attention to a May 13 application, which he filed on his client’s behalf, to challenge her fresh trial before the court.
He said the substance of the charges had already been decided by Justice Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court, who struck them out based on the Court of Appeal decision in Nganjiwa’s case that a serving judge could not be prosecuted unless first investigated and sanctioned by the NJC.
But the prosecutor, Oyedepo, argued that the position had changed since November 7, 2018 when the NJC, after trying Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, recommended her to President Muhammadu Buhari for dismissal.
Justice Aikawa adjourned till May 23 to hear the application.