A Federal High Court Lagos on Monday, fixed June 28, to deliver a ruling on a preliminary objection challenging the trial of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia facing Money Laundering charges.
The court fixed the date for ruling after counsel for the defence and prosecution had both adopted their various arguments before the court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, with 18 counts bordering on Conspiracy, Unlawful Enrichment, retention of Crime Proceeds and Money Laundering.
The defendants are standing trial before Justice Rilwan Aikawa.
They pleaded not guilty to all counts of the charge and were granted bails in the sum of N10 million each with two sureties in like sum.
The defendants were first charged before an Ikeja division of the High Court which had struck out the charge on grounds of jurisdiction.
Consequent upon striking out of the charge, EFCC preferred same charges against the defendants before the Federal High Court.
At the last adjourned date on May 18, first defence counsel, Robert Clarke (SAN), informed the court of a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
In the same vein, second defence counsel, Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), had also drawn the court’s attention to pending motions before the court seeking to separate the charges in favour of the second defendant.
They were alleged to have conspired to retain in the same account, the sum of N500 million, which they both reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of unlawful acts of unlawful enrichment.
For instance, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia was alleged to have on different dates in 2014, retained sums of monies like N5 million, $150,000, $20,000, $30,000, $50,000, and $55,000 in the Diamond bank account of Nigel and Colive.
The EFCC also accused Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia of indirectly concealing the sum of N12 million in the same account, and making a false statement to the EFCC that the money was payment for the sale of a landed property.
The alleged offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15 (2) (a) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.
When the case was called on Monday, Mr. Clarke adopted his arguments on the preliminary objection, arguing that Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia was still a serving judge of the Federal High Court and had not been dismissed.
He argued that the prosecution had not tendered anything to show that there was a gazette in which the dismissal of the judge was communicated.
According to Mr. Clarke, what is before the court is exhibit EFCC 2, which is a document showing that effect has been given to the recommendation for dismissal and not a gazette.
He noted that the said exhibit was addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and not to the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, adding that it was also marked restricted.
Citing the case of Governor of Ekiti State vs Ojo, as well as the provision of section 103 of the Evidence Act, he submitted that the document was a private one and not a gazette.
He urged the court to so hold.
On his part, the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, also adopted his processes before the court, urging it to discountenance the arguments of defence.
In a similar manner, second defence counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) also adopted his arguments on behalf of the second defendant, seeking to quash the charge.
He also sought an order striking out counts one, two and three, for being an abuse of court process or in the alternative, an order, separating the charge against the defendants so that the second defendant could be tried separately.
After listening to respective arguments, Mr. Aikawa adjourned the case until June 28 for a ruling.
EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired on May 21, 2014, to indirectly conceal different sums of money, in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd, a company alleged to be operated by Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia.