Godwin Obla (SAN), who has been in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission since November 8, on the allegations of bribery a Judge, has filed a N1bn fundamental rights enforcement suit against the anti-graft agency.
Obla, who was detained by the EFCC for allegedly offering a N5m gratification to Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, is urging the court to declare that his detention beyond 24 hours by the EFCC was unlawful.
He is also urging Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos, before whom he filed the suit, to declare that the seizure of his mobile telephone was a violation of his fundamental right to own property.
This is even as the EFCC has slammed 30-count charge on Obla and a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
The EFCC claimed that about $793,800 passed through the Judge’s domiciliary accounts between 2012 and 2015. The Judge allegedly used the money to buy a house in London.
The two accounts have since been frozen by the EFCC.
The commission is expected to arraign the two suspects before a Lagos State High Court this week.
But in apparent bid to frustrate his arraignment, Obla, through his counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), told Justice Idris on Monday that his client has been detained illegally since November 8.
He said Obla visited the EFCC office on November 8, 2016 and had been detained by the anti-graft agency since then without a lawful court order.
He said in order to confer a purported legality on Obla’s detention beyond the 24 hours which the constitution stipulated, the EFCC went before a magistrate’s court to obtain a remand order pursuant to the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State.
Adedipe, however, urged Justice Idris to strike out, once and for all, the provisions of the ACJL which the EFCC had been relying upon to remand suspects beyond 24 hours.
“It is either we have a constitution or we don’t and we do have a constitution. The provisions of the ACJL that they fly up and down cannot override the provisions of the constitution and I urge My Lord to strike them down. It is high time Your Lordship made an order,” Adedipe said.
He further argued that the EFCC violated Obla’s right by seizing his phone after the EFCC had said it had concluded its investigation.
“The respondent is oppressing my client and I urge My Lord to put an end to this,” Adedipe said.
He urged Justice Idris to order the immediate release of his client and his mobile phone and to award N1bn damages against the EFCC “so that tomorrow, they won’t do it.”
But in opposition to Obla’s prayers, the EFCC, through its counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Idris to hold that all the steps it took against Obla were allowed by law.
Oyedepo told Justice Idris that the EFCC was probing Obla for allegedly offering a gratification of N5m to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, at a time when the SAN was appearing in a suit numbered FHC/L/482c/2010 before the Judge .
He said Obla’s detention was based on reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime, adding that the EFCC, having realised that it could not conclude its investigation on November 8, obtained an order of a magistrate’s court to remand Obla for 14 days on November 9.
“By virtue of Section 264 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, the magistrate’s court has the power to order the remand of any suspect having found that there was a reasonable suspicion,” Oyedepo argued.
Meanwhile, some of the charges against Obla and Ofili-Ajumogobia read in part, “That you, Hon. Justice Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, and Godwin Obla (SAN), on or about May 21, 2015, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired with each other to pervert the course of justice in charge number FHC/L/C/482C/10 with the sum of N5,000,000.
“That you, Godwin Obla (SAN), on or about May 21, 2015, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, intentionally gave the sum of N5,000,000 to Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court directly from your Obla and Company account (1015319084) domiciled in the United Bank for Africa Plc in order that the said Judge acts in the exercise of her official duties.”
The anti-graft agency said the Judge received $55,000 on March 27, 2014, and another $55,000 on October 14, 2014 while $20,000 was received through the same account on June 19, 2014.
The Commission alleged in the charge sheet that Ofili-Ajumogobia also received $20,000 on October 13, 2014 while she got an additional $50,000 on December 20, 2014.
The Judge allegedly received $50,000 on November 21, 2014 and $30,000 between June 17 and June 19, 2015 through the same Diamond Bank account as well as another $10,000 on July 6, 2015.
She allegedly received $20,000 on June 11, 2013; $30,000 on February 11, 2014 and $150,000 on March 29, 2014.
The EFCC accused the Judge of receiving $68, 800 through her Access Bank account between August 11, 2011 and March 27, 2012.
She also allegedly received $35,000 through the same account between April 30 and September 3, 2012.
The charges were said to be contrary to Section 82 (a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No 11, 2011.
Ofili-Ajumogobia refuted the allegations as she claimed that the money was a deposit for a N40m property she sold to Obla, while the Senior Advocate said the money was a payment for building materials and insisted that he did not know that the aaccount the money was paid into belonged to the Judge.