EFCC makes u-turn, asks court to strike out charges against Ajumogobia

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday asked an Ikeja High Court, Lagos to strike out its corruption charges against a dismissed judge of the Lagos division of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia over issues on lack of jurisdiction. The EFCC, through its prosecuting Counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said that the antigraft agency has conceded to the fact that the court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on Ajumogobia’s trial based on the decisions of an Appellant Court in Justice Nganjuwa Vs FRN. Oyedepo, via a written address dated December 13, 2018, also urged the court to strike out the charge because the EFCC did not charge Ofili-Ajumogobia in line with the National Judicial Council (NJC) guidelines.

The Court of Appeal judge, Justice Obaseki Adejumo, who delivered judgment in the Nganjuwa case, said that the EFCC does not have power to investigate and prosecute serving judicial officers. According to Justice Adejumo, the NJC must first strip the appellant (Hon. Justice Nganjuwa) of his judicial standing before he could be charge. The Judge stated, “serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like murder, stealing etc done outside the discharge of their duties. That once the offence was committed in the discharge of their duties, they must be tried by NJC first”. While addressing the court yesterday, Oyedepo said: “In urging Your Lordship to strike out the charge, we concede that in this case we have done our bit in view of the fact that the decision in Nganjuwa’s case is still the law today. “We state that the charge was not brought in line with the procedure and this proceeding is deemed not to have existed in the first place.

“I pray My Lord not to be persuaded by the submission of the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Robert Clarke to discharge and acquit the first defendant (Ofili-Ajumogobia). “Section 73 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) is not applicable here as we have not made an application attempting to withdraw the charge or information.” Earlier, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN) the defence counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia in an application dated Nov. 27, 2018 urged the court to court the discharge and acquit his client. Clark said: “Where evidence has been adduced by the prosecution and they have closed their case, the consequential order to make as a result of jurisdiction is to discharge the accused whether on merit or simplicita.

“Where the question of jurisdic-tion is raised before the prosecution called witnesses, the court should discharge simplicita. Once the defendant is made to take a plea, the court must discharge him from the plea. “However where the issue of jurisdiction has not been raised before the defendant has taken his plea and had allowed the defendant endure the strain of trial, the court should discharge the defendant.

“I urge the court to discharge and acquit the first defendant. According to Section 73(1) of the ACJL what has happened in this case is a withdrawal by agreeing My Lordship has no jurisdiction,” Clarke said. Also Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) the defence counsel to Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), Ofili-Ajumogobia’s co-defendant, urged the court to separate the joint charges of the defendants. Adedipe said: “Salvation in Christendom is individual, I submit that the second defendant (Obla) is not a judicial officer covered by the decision in Ngajuwa’s case. I’m inviting Your Lordship to separate the first defendant from the second defendant.

“The subject matter is within the jurisdiction of the court and the second defendant is within the jurisdiction of the court. So the issue of jurisdiction does not apply to the second defendant,” Adedipe said. Meanwhile, Justice Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), on a 31-count charge of unlawful enrichment and conspiracy. Justice Hakeem Oshodi adjourned the case till April 16 for ruling.