The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday revealed that two of senior lawyer Joseph Nwobike’s cases led the National Judicial Council (NJC) to recommend the dismissal of a former Federal High Court judge, Justice Muhammed Yinusa.
The admission came while the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, was cross-examining Mr. Nwobike (SAN), in his criminal trial at the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, in the course of which the prosecutor showed documents to prove the allegations against Mr. Nwobike.
Mr. Oyedepo asserted that the NJC recommended the dismissal of Justice Yinusa because of irregularities in eight cases he had presided over, two of which were filed by Mr. Nwobike.
According to him, the judge’s dismissal was recommended after investigations revealed that his rulings favored Nwobike's clients, Dr. Femi Thomas and Simon Adomene.
Mr. Oyedepo also displayed a flurry of text messages between Nwobike and one Mr. Jide of the Federal High Court in Lagos, where Nwobike specifically asked Jide to ensure that his client, Adomene's case, was assigned to Justice Yinusa.
Showing Nwobike a letter from the NJC dated November 8, 2016 which was addressed to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Oyedepo told him that the NJC had considered the Simon John Adomene suit and Dr Femi Thomas suits he filed against the EFCC.
“In recommending Justice Yinusa for dismissal, it was the findings of the NJC that the decision of the judge restraining the EFCC in those cases and five other cases were contrary to the Supreme Court decision in A.G Anambra V Andy Ubah.
“Out of the eight cases adjudicated by Justice Yinusa, the handling of which he was recommended for dismissal, two of those cases were filed by you.”
Adomene, who was a bursar at the Niger Delta University, was at that time under investigation by the anti-graft agency.
Nwobike, who represented Adomene, had filed a suit before the Federal High Court seeking to restrain the EFCC from arresting, detaining and investigating his client.
The senior lawyer also asked the court to lift a forfeiture order obtained by the EFCC which temporarily froze his client's accounts at UBA, Skye Bank and Zenith Bank.
In a series of SMS messages with Justice Yinusa, Nwobike asked the former judge to grant his client's reliefs.
Yinusa then granted the prayers in favour of Adomene despite a Lagos State High Court order freezing the account, and also a counter-affidavit by the EFCC opposing the said relief.
Oyedepo further revealed that during investigation by the NJC, it was revealed that Yinusa cited a case between the Attorney General of Anambra State and Ubah which formed part of reasons for granting Nwobike's reliefs.
The NJC however recommended Yinusa for sack when it was discovered that the said case between the AG Anambra State and Uba was contrary to Yinusa's decision and also because the case which was copiously quoted did not apply to the matter.
Nwobike however denied knowing that Adomene was a staff of the Niger Delta University and that he was unaware of an existing court order freezing his client's account.
Oyedepo also displayed messages between Jide and one Mr. Baruwa, both of who were members of staff of the Federal High Court.
In one of the messages, Nwobike who referred to Jide as 'My Lord', asked for a quick favour regarding a case between Toyin Subair vs GTB and five others whom he wanted assigned to Justice Yinusa.
In another instance, Nwobike sent a text which read, “We need a quick one in this matter, Transnational Cooperation and AGF,” in which he specifically requested that the case be assigned to Yinusa.
To which Jide replied, “I have done it. It would be there in the next ten minutes”.
Nwobike also asked Jide to assign a case between AMCON and Chief Aribisala to Justice Yinusa, to which Jide replied that he would inform Mr. Baruwa who would follow up.
The case was eventually assigned to Yinusa and Mr. Baruwa in another text replied, “Thank you sir, I got the message from Felix (Nwobike's litigation officer)”.
It was further revealed that as of the time Nwobike asked that his cases be assigned to Yinusa, the cases had not been assigned to any judge.
Accusing Nwobike of perverting the course of justice, Oyedepo displayed more messages that Nwobike exchanged with Jide in which he named the judges that he want to preside over his cases.
“In page 4288, column 9301, you would recall that you forwarded the same suit to Mr. Jide on January 2, 2015, and this time around suggesting that the case be assigned to Justice Buba.
“In page 4308, column 9838, you sent the text as shown in this column to Mr. Jide on December 9, 2014, containing the suit details between AMCON and Mettle Energy and Gas with suit number FHC/L/CS/18922014 and you suggested Justice Aneke.
“In page 4345, column 10849, you sent a message to Jide on October 8, 2014, where you said ‘Sorry Kuya, he said that he would start sitting next week, thanks,” Oyedepo said.
Nwobike is being tried by the EFCC on an 11-count charge bordering on perverting the course of justice and offering gratification to public officials.
The judges involved in the alleged gratification scam are Justice H. A. Nganjiwa and Justice Musa Kurya, both of the Federal High Court, Lagos; and Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court, Lagos.
The EFCC also claimed that Nwobike engaged in sending illegal text messages to four registrars of the Federal High Court in a bid to unduly influence his cases being tried by the judges.
Nwobike, however, denied all the charges. He told the court that money he allegedly gave to the judges as gratification were “assistance,” explaining that the judges were old friends with whom he was acquainted while in the university, which was long before they were assigned as judges.
Justice Raliat Adebiyi adjourned the matter till July 21 for continuation of Nwobike's cross examination.