A court in Lagos has ordered the suspended Judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Justice Mohammed Yunusa. to face trial for alleged corruption.
Justice Sherifat Solebo of an Ikeja Special Offences Court on Monday gave the order following the rejection of preliminary objection submitted by Yunusa’s counsel, Robert Clarke.
Clarke had on March 9, in a preliminary objection, said the Judge had been “absolved of the corruption charges” by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Citing the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Nganjiwa, Clarke had said that for Yunusa’s dismissal to be valid, President Muhammadu Buhari, had to give a recommendation for his suspension.
Justic Solebo, in the lengthy two-hour ruling, however, held a contrary view, referring to a Nov. 8, 2016 letter from the NJC to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suspending the Judge, noting that the NJC had already exercised disciplinary action against the embattled Judge.
“I do not think that the defendant is a sitting Judge having been suspended, I thereby agree that prosecution cannot be brought until the NJC exercises its disciplinary powers against a judicial officer.
“Going through Nganjiwa’s case there is no evidence that the NJC investigated Nganjiwa but in the case against the first defendant (Yunusa) the NJC on its 76th meeting investigated him.
“What is left to be done? The NJC has done what it is empowered to do, it is my decision that I am not bound by Nganjiwa vs Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“It is my conclusion that the first defendant has to defend himself in the information filed by the prosecution.
“It is my decision that this court has jurisdiction on the charges filed against the first defendant in this case and the notice of preliminary objection is dismissed,” Justice Solebo ruled.
The EFCC arraigned Yunusa, formerly a Judge of the Lagos Division of Federal High Court, alongside Esther Agbo, a staff of the law chambers of Rickey Tarfa on Jan. 17.
Yunusa was arraigned on four counts bordering on attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official, while Mrs Agbo was charged with offering gratification to a public official
They, however, pleaded not guilty the charges.
According to the EFCC, Yunusa had constant and confidential communications with Tarfa, who was handling three lawsuits marked FHC/L/CS/714/2015, FHC/L/CS/715/2015 and FHC/L/CS/716/2015 before him.
It also alleged that Mr Yunusa collected N1.5 million bribe from Mr Tarfa for the purpose of giving favourable rulings and judgments in the cases.
The Judge is also being accused of receiving N750,000 from Joseph Nwobike, between March 2015 and September, 2015, to get “favourable” judgment in some cases.