A Federal High Court Judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, has challenged the jurisdiction of a High Court in Lagos to try her over the corruption charges filed against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Robert Clarke, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia’s new lead defence counsel, challenged the court’s jurisdiction on Monday in an application brought before Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Godwin Obla, a former prosecutor of the EFCC.
They are jointly charged with a two-count offence of perverting the course of justice. Obla is facing an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5m to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption by a public officer, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
Both denied all the charges.
Four prosecution witnesses — three bankers and one Bureau-de-Change operator — have so far testified in the trial for the prosecution.
The witnesses gave accounts of how they allegedly helped the Judge launder large sums of money in foreign and local currencies from her home and the judge’s chambers at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, into various bank accounts registered in her name.
When the matter came up on Monday Clark noted that they have two applications before the court, but one had been treated while the second application is the one challenging the court jurisdiction.
“We have two pending applications before this court and one was taking during the last proceeding but we are yet to receive a response from the court,” Clark said.
The presiding judge, Justice Oshodi, in response, said, “You people just shot yourselves at the foot because this application should have been taken first and it is obviously not ripe for hearing
“For that same reason, every other application must wait for this particular one to be taken; because if I don’t have jurisdiction, how can the case continue?”.
But Godwin Obla’s counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), noted that the application before the court is just for the first defendant.
“Even though this is a joint trial, the application before your Lordship is for the first defendant and not of the second defendant,” Adedipe said.
Clark, however, aligned himself with Adedipe.
“If my motion would delay the second defendant matter, I would, therefore, withdraw my motion temporarily to allow the defendant take his motion “.
Justice Oshodi in response, said, “This is not a game of chess and this court would not permit such. This is law and not where people play by assumptions or chance”.
The judge reiterated that he still maintains his position and adjourned the matter till April 28, 2017, as previously fixed for hearing of the pending application.
It will be recalled that the first defendant, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, a serving judge of the Federal High Court, is being prosecuted alongside Obla by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was also accused of receiving a total of $793, 800 in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015.
The EFCC claimed that the embattled Judge and the SAN acted contrary to sections 64 (1) and 97 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011. they both pleaded not guilty to charges preferred against them, after which Justice Oshodi granted them bail on self-recognisance.