A witness in the ongoing trial of Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla (SAN) before Justice O.H. Oshodi of State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos state, gave evidence today on how Ofili-Ajumogobia lied to evade investigators of the anti-graft agency by falsely claiming that she was admitted to the hospital. He also narrated how she got several millions of naira from a company named Arkline Oil and Gas Ltd, and Godwin Obla (SAN), a lawyer.
Lawal Abdullahi, an operative of the EFCC and who is the investigating officer of the case, told the court that he put a call to Ofili Ajumogobia On October 19, 2016, at about 7.16pm. He said, " I called to tell her that investigators had been expecting her since the previous day, which she replied she was aware, but that she was sick and on admission at Goldcross Hospital located at 17b, Bourdillion Road, Ikoyi, Lagos".
“She asked if I will be coming there and I said no. Being suspicious of her claim, after about 30minutes, I and about three other operatives drove down to the hospital to confirm. I personally met the receptionist and I informed her that I was there to visit Hon. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and she replied, "we are expecting her". I asked her if she means that the judge is not at the hospital, she told me that she just received a call from her boss that Ofili-Ajumogobia will soon be at the hospital."
According to Lawal, “we enquired and got the list of all the patients that were on admission that day as well as the previous night but her name was not on the list. I put another call to her and I asked her which hospital she was referring to and she said Goldcross Hospital on Bourdillon Road. I then told her ‘Ma, we are there and you are not here’, she said ‘oh, you are there?’ and she hung up the phone. She refused to respond or answer all calls made to her thereafter", Lawal said.
Furthermore, Lawal Abdullahi revealed that Justice Ajumogobia perverted Justice in the trial of the former NIMASA Director General, Raymond Omatseye before her due to the fact that Godwin Obla (SAN), who was an external lawyer with the EFCC and was assigned to be the prosecutor of the case, is a close friend of the first defendant, a fact he did not disclose to the EFCC.
Lawal told the court that in the course of the investigation, it was shown that there was communication between the first defendant and the second defendant, Godwin Obla. Obla was found to have visited Ofili Ajumogobia in her chambers, where they exchanged bank account number. Obla was found to have paid the sum of N5million into the account of Nigel & Clive Plc, a company belonging to the first defendant, Ofili Ajumogobia.
“I confronted Ofili Ajumogobia in the course of the investigation on how she got the N5Million and the purpose for which the payment was made. Initially, she denied knowing Obla, but later said the money was for a property at Abeokuta which the second defendant, Godwin Obla (SAN) was interested and he paid the N5Million as part payment of N28.5Million as the cost of the property.
“In another breathe, she said the N5Million was for a property at Kachi village in Abuja worth N40Million, which the second defendant also showed interest and paid N5Million as part payment."
"She later wrote a statement and agreed that she met with the second defendant and that she collected money from him,’’ Lawal Abdullahi said.
The prosecution witness told the court that he interrogated the second defendant, Godwin Obla on the purpose for the money paid to Ajumogobia.
"When I asked Obla the reason for the payment, he said the N5Million was for a supply of iron rods from Ajumogobia,’’ Lawal told the court.
From the investigation, according to the prosecution witness, the defendants could not satisfactorily give any reason for the payment of N5Million into Ajumogobia’s account.
In a similar development, Lawal Abdullahi told the court that Ajumogobia also received N18Million from one company called Arkline Oil and Gas Plc sometime in 2013, but could not explain the reason for the payment or purpose of the transaction.
Lawal told the court that Ajumogobia later changed the N18Million into US dollars and transferred the money to an offshore account of a company named SilverSteps Inc, which investigation revealed belongs to her.
Justice Oshodi however, told both parties that the matter would be adjourned, when an argument arose on the admissibility of a document sought to be tendered by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, supposedly revealing a property purchased by the first defendant, Ofili Ajumogobia in the United States of America.
Ajumugobia's counsel, Robert Clark SAN, and counsel to the second defendant, Ifedayo Adenipekun SAN, both filed applications seeking the temporary release of the international passport of the defendants on the grounds that Ajumogobia wants to travel for medicals while Obla intends to visit his newborn grandchild in the United States of America.
Oyedepo, however, opposed the application filed by Ajumogobia. He told the court that an approval must come from the Chief Justice of Nigeria before she can travel out of the country, but left Obla’s application to the discretion of the court.
Robert Clarke, promised the court to do the needful before the adjourned date.
However, Justice Oshodi granted Obla’s application.
"The international passport of the second defendant is hereby released to him temporarily, and the second defendant shall return his passport to the court registrar on or before the 10th of November 2017.’’ Justice Oshodi said.
Ofili-Ajumogobia, a judge of the Federal High Court, is standing trial alongside Mr. Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The two are jointly charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Obla is facing an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official while serving as a judge. Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery, and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
Justice Oshodi adjourned the matter to November 10, 2017, for ruling and continuation of trial.