Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has granted bail to Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla, a senior lawyer on with conditions that must be met within seven days or the bail, will be revoked.
The judge in his ruling ordered the defendants to submit their international passports and deposit a sum of 20 million naira each with the court.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr. Obla were arraigned earlier this morning on a 30 count charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and they pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The charges bother on conspiracy to pervert justice, unlawful gratification, forgery and giving of false information.
In view of the not guilty plea of the defendants, prosecutor for EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court for an expedited trial and also sought that the defendants be remanded in the prison custody.
The defense counsel, Wale Akonni (SAN) for the 1st defendant and Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) for the 2nd defendant, swiftly opposed the prosecutor’s motion for the defendant to be remanded in prison custody.
Mr. Akoni informed the court that the Ist defendant has served an application for bail and urged the court to rely on the content of the affidavit that accompanied the application in granting his client bail on self-recognizance.
He added that the court should not repose the responsibility of verifying conditions of bail on the prosecutor in the event that the court grants bail to his client.
He said further; “I urge your lordship to grant bail to the 1st defendant in her own recognisance. In the likelihood the court decides to impose conditions, such conditions should be minimal. I also want to comment that verification should not be left to the prosecutor. The conditions can be verified by another organ but not the EFCC.”
Mr. Oyedepo, in responding to the 1st defendant counsel, opposed the bail application. He told the court that the prosecutor has overwhelming evidence against the embattled judge suggesting that she might induce or interfere with witnesses if allowed to go on bail. He said it was because of a similar act that the commission had to revoke the administrative bail granted to the judge in the course of the investigation.
He went ahead to mention one Mr. Ademola Oshodi, a branch manager at Skye Bank Plc, that the defendant purportedly contacted for the purpose of influencing his testimony to the commission.
On the issue of verification of conditions of bail, the prosecutor said such responsibility can be given at the discretion of the court, and if the Court so wishes, it can confer it on the prosecutor.
Counsel for the 2nd defendant also pleaded with the court to grant his client bail on self-recognizance, stating that he is a well-respected member of the Nigerian Bar Association and also a senior advocate of Nigeria. He went further to say that his client has been on administrative bail granted but the anti-graft agency on another matter and he has not breached the conditions of bail in any way.
The court granted the defendants bail and promised to expedite their trial.
Mr. Oyedepo called his first witness, Mr. Ademola who he allegedly was contacted by Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia for the purpose of inducing him.
However, after the prosecutor had questioned the witness, the defense counsel moved a motion for adjournment stating that they cannot continue with the trial as they are not prepared for it.
Justice Oshodi agreed that the counsel cannot be forced to continue trial, criminal and thus adjourned to January 9th, 2017 for the continuation of trial
According to the charge sheet, the offenses against the defendants contravene different provisions of the law, including but not limited to; section 64 (1) and 97 (1)CriminalLaw of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.