An operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Lawal Abdullahi, on Friday, narrated how Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia allegedly perverted the course of justice.
Abdullahi alleged before an Ikeja High Court in Lagos that Obla gave the Federal High Court judge N5m gratification to pervert the course of justice in a Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) case.
He made the allegations while being led in evidence by Rotimi Oyedepo, the EFCC prosecutor.
“The second defendant (Obla) was an external prosecutor to the EFCC, he was assigned to handle a matter between the commission and a former Director General of NIMASA, Raymond Omatseye who was facing criminal charges for financial crimes.
“The matter was before the first defendant (Ofili-Ajumogobia) at the Federal High Court, our investigation revealed that when the case was pending before the first defendant, there was communication between them.
“The communication was without the knowledge of the opposing party, they are friends and had also been meeting without the knowledge of the opposing party.
“He failed to notify the Commission of this relationship and this may have caused conflict of interest in the case.
“During the course of investigation, it was discovered that there was an exchange of account numbers between the defendants when the NIMASA case was before the first defendant.
“The sum of N5m was transferred by the second defendant to the Judge’s account called Nigel and Colive in Diamond Bank,” he said.
Abdullahi noted in his testimony that it was necessary for Obla to have informed the EFCC of his relationship with the Judge because there would have been a conflict of interest in the case.
“Obla met Ofili-Ajumogobia in her chambers and the account number of Nigel and Colive was given to him in which N5m was paid from the account of Obla and Co, the lawyer’s office account in UBA.
“He admitted in his statement that he met the first defendant sometime in April or May 2015 and as at that time, the NIMASA matter was not concluded in court.
“In May 2016, judgment was passed by the first defendant, the suspect was convicted but that judgment was set aside by the Court of Appeal on May 11, 2017.
“The Judge’s daughter, Aribim Ajumogobia, was also during this period employed by NIMASA.”
The investigator revealed that when the anti-graft agency confronted the defendants with evidence of the bank transactions, they gave different accounts of why the money was given to the Judge.
“Ofili-Ajumogobia gave me three different responses as to why the money was paid into her account.
“First she denied knowing Obla, second, she said it was for a property transaction for a property at Hilltop area of Abeokuta and that Obla paid Nm out of N28.5m which was the cost of the property.
“In another breath, she said it was for a property in Kashi village Abuja worth N40m for which Obla showed an interest in and paid a deposit of N5m.
“When we confronted Obla, he said the N5m was paid to the Judge to buy iron rods for building and that one Joseph or George supplied the iron rods to him.
“We confronted him with Ofili-Ajumogobia’s statement and he said her statement was not true, and that he did not buy any property from the judge,” he said.
Abdullahi said the EFCC investigated the claims of Obla that the N5 million was for the supply of iron rods and the anti-graft agency’s findings were that the claims were untrue.
The EFCC investigator went further to claim that Ofili-Ajumogobia had used her two children; Aridim and Tochukwu to front as directors in companies owned by her and used to launder money.
“The address of Nigel and Colive was given as 293, Borno Way, Ebute Meta, Lagos.
“We wrote to the company and there was no response and our visit to the company address proved that it was non-existent.
“The directors of the company; Aridim Ajumogobia and Tochukwu Ajumogobia are the two children of the first defendant.
“They were invited by the Commission and they claimed that they did not know anything about the N5 million transaction , the company was not into any kind of business and they did not know how they became directors,” he told the court.
The witness said anti-graft agency through its investigators said the N5m paid into Judge’s account by Obla was used to decorate her home in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“When the N5m was paid into the account of Nigel and Colive, the balance of the account was N11.5m.
“We traced N4m paid from that account into the account of New Frontiers Engineering Construction Company, an interior decorating company for a N30m contract to decorate her home.
“The first defendant was the one who instructed the disbursement of all the payments for Nigel and Colive.”
The EFCC investigator also told the court how the N18m the Judge allegedly borrowed from a former employer, Dr Gregory Ero of Arkleen Oil and Gas Ltd was used.
Ero, Ofili-Ajumogobia’s former employer had testified in court on May 26 that the judge refused to pay back the N18m he gave her in 2012.
Abdullahi while testifying said: “My findings were that N18m from Arkleen Oil and Gas was not part of the illegitimate earnings of the judge.
“When the money was received on June 5,2012 it was placed in a fix deposit, as at March , 2013 the N18m had become N21m and at April 29, 2013 N22m was transferred to the first defendant’s account in Diamond Bank.
“This sum formed part of the N18m that was collected from Arkleen Oil and Gas, it was converted into dollars on May 6, 2013 at N157 per dollar and moved into her domiciliary account in Diamond Bank.
“The converted sum was $140,129,39 and three days after it was received, $139, 815 was moved to the offshore account of Silversteps Incorporation, an account domiciled in First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), United Kingdom.
“Investigations revealed that the first defendant was behind Silversteps Incorporation and the sole director of the company was her daughter, Aribim Ajumogobia but all transactions were done by the Judge.
“Aribim Ajumogobia was interviewed and she confirmed that all transactions were done by her mother.
“The money was used for a mortgage transaction for a property located at 157, Verulem Lane, London.
Oyedepo sought to tender documents of the mortgage transaction as evidence but Robert Clarke (SAN), Ofili-Ajumogobia’s defence counsel, objected that the documents had no connection with the charges the judge was facing.
After his objection, Clarke in an application dated Oct. 23 requested the release of the Judge’s international passport by the court.
Rotimi, however, opposing Clarke’s application saying:“I do not think there is an approval from the Honourable Chief Judge for the first defendant’s journey to the U.S.A.”
Clarke submitted that: “We would look into this aspect of the application and get the position of Your Lordship at the next adjourned date.
Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) also asked the court for the release of Obla’s international passport.
“My Lord, we have an application dated Oct. 17 seeking Your Lordship’s leave for an order for the temporary release of the second defendant’s international passport.
“He wants to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, USA on Oct. 28 and return on or before Nov. 10, the defendant is desirous of travelling because of family obligations,” Adedipe said.
In his ruling, Justice Hakeem Oshodi said: “The Chief Registrar shall release the international passport of the second defendant who is to travel between Oct. 28 and return on or before Nov. 9.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Godwin Obla (SAN) and former prosecutor of the EFCC, charged with a two-count offence bordering on perverting the course of justice.
Obla is facing an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5m to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official while serving as a Judge.
Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
Both denied all the charges.
Justice Hakeem Oshodi adjourned the case until Nov. 10 for ruling on the admissibility of the mortgage documents and continuation of trial.