Agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have started questioning Godwin Obla, a senior lawyer and former prosecutor to the anti-corruption agency, in connection with irregular payments to some judges who are targets of an ongoing probe of corruption in the judicial sector.
EFCC sources told our correspondent that Mr. Obla arrived at the commission’s Lagos office this afternoon in response to a summons by the anti-graft agency.
EFCC agents are specifically interrogating Mr. Obla in relation to an allegation that he paid N5 million to a Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia. Our source at the commission said that the lawyer funneled the money to the judge through a company in which the embattled judge has an interest.
Earlier, the judge had told EFCC investigators who questioned her that the payment was part payment for a property she claimed to have sold to the lawyer in Abuja for the sum of N40 million. She reportedly stated that the real estate deal took place sometime in 2015.
However, one of our sources disclosed that Mr. Obla's responses during today’s interrogation contradicted the judge's claims. The source quoted the lawyer as telling investigators that the money he paid to the judge was meant for buying building materials, specifically iron rods, for a building he was putting up in Abuja. He reportedly denied that the money was for buying any property.
According to the source, Mr. Obla explained that, during one of his trips to Lagos, he ran into the judge who had been his contemporary at university. He stated that, in the course of conversations, the judge disclosed that she knew where he could get building materials in Lagos at good prices. He added that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia then gave him the name and account number of a company to enable him to order the building materials. He told investigators that he paid the money and the goods were supplied.
When investigators asked him to provide the merchant’s name, a receipt for the transaction and evidence of delivery of the goods, Mr. Obla said he could not remember the name of the trader or his location. He also failed to produce any receipt or delivery note for the transaction.
However, EFCC agents said they had confirmed that the account into which the lawyer paid the sum of N5 million belonged to a company owned by the judge and her children. Investigators suspect that the registered company, which was not known to be engaged in the sale of building materials or any other viable business, was surreptitiously set up for the purpose of warehousing proceeds of graft. The same company has been identified in other questionable financial transactions traced to the judge.
One of our sources said EFCC interrogators were still grilling Mr. Obla, adding that it was unlikely that the lawyer would be released today.