An Ikeja High Court on Tuesday freed Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, a dismissed judge of the Federal High Court, and Godwin Obla (SAN) of corruption charges filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
However, Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia was immediately re-arrested by the operatives of the EFCC for yet to be stated offence.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Hakeem Oshodi held that based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Justice Nganjiwa V. FRN, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit as the EFCC “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.
He noted that in spite of the anti-graft commission being aware of the decision in Mr Nganjiwa’s case, regarding the proper procedure to discipline erring judicial officers, the EFCC still went ahead with the trial by calling more witnesses.
“As at Monday, December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa vs FRN. As at that date, the amended information was yet to be filed and the 12th prosecution witness was still giving evidence.
“The prosecution persisted like a bull running amok and still called two more witnesses and precious judicial time was wasted.
“We have not found a way in the judicial atmosphere to discipline or penalise an agency of government through fines or costs.
“In conclusion, the court has no jurisdiction to hear the first amended charge of February 21, 2018 of 31 counts. This suit is hereby struck out.”
Justice Obaseki Adejumo of the Court of Appeal while delivering judgment in the Nganjiwa’s case in 2017 held that the EFCC does not have power to investigate and prosecute serving judicial officers.
Justice Adejumo said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) must first strip the appellant (Hon. Justice Nganjiwa) of his judicial standing before he could be charged.
The Court of Appeal judge had further stated that serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offence like murder, stealing etc done outside the discharge of their duties.
It said once the offence was committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by NJC.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 10 officials of the EFCC surrounded Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia as she attempted to leave the courtroom after the ruling by Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Upon sighting the officials, the former Judge made a hasty retreat and went back upstairs into Justice Oshodi’s courtroom to seek the protection of the court from the EFCC operatives.
Justice Oshodi, when notified about the development, said there was nothing he could do as “the file had been closed.”
The embattled former Judge and her husband, who was with her, were observed frantically making various phone calls.
Obla, a lawyer and Mrs Ofili-Ajumogobia’s co-defendant, was however allowed to exit the court premises by officials of the EFCC.
However, when Justice Oshodi’s court rose, Ofili-Ajumogobia was arrested by some EFCC officials who whisked her away in a white Hilux van.