Embattled judge of a Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ngozi Ajumogobia on Thursday had cause to smile as an Ikeja High Court varied part of her bail conditions.
Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla SAN, on a 30-count charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
They both pleaded not guilty and were granted bail on self recognisance and were also asked to deposit N20 million into the Chief Registrar’s account or their bail would be revoked in seven days.
On Thursday, Ajumogobia and Obla, however, pleaded with the court to vary their bail conditions as they could not raise N20 million.
Ajumogobia through her counsel, Olawale Akoni SAN, told the court that the EFCC had placed a no debit order on all her accounts, and as such, she had no access to any funds.
The embattled judge further told the court that she was living on the goodwill of friends and family, adding that even the aggregate in all her accounts was not up to the stipulated amount.
Obla, on his part also told the court that he had been making frantic efforts trying to raise the N20 million, but he was unable raise the stipulated amount.
“We humbly pray My Lord to vary the condition that the second defendant should deposit N20million to the registrar of the court. We are passionately appealing for that. We are willing to even submit an insurance bond to demonstrate our willingness.
“We don’t have that money now but we plead with Your Lordship most passionately to grant this application and pray that my learned friend will not oppose it,” Ifedayo Adedipe, Obla’s counsel told Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Both defence counsels also prayed the court to order the EFCC to immediately transmit their passport to the chief registrar of the court as ordered by the judge.
Responding, however, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, confirmed the receipt of the defendants’ applications, adding that a further affidavit to the application was served on him on Thursday.
He, however, said though he was not inclined to opposing Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s application, but the defendant raised serious issues touching on his personality in the further affidavit to which he needed time to respond.
“Ordinarily, we would have loved to react on oath to the issues raised, but if the applicant is willing to abandon that further affidavit, I will leave the application to the overriding discretionary power of the court,” Oyedepo said.
Ruling on the applications after standing the matter down for hours, Justice Oshodi said he was inclined to exercise his discretionary power in favour of the defendants more so as the EFCC had not received the applications.
He granted the prayer by Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla to execute a N20 million bail bond with the chief registrar of the Lagos State High Court rather than deposit cash, within seven days from Thursday.
He also ordered the defendants to swear to affidavits of means.
Justice Oshodi, however, said the defendants’ prayer seeking an order directing the EFCC to immediately surrender their passport to the court registrar was “not well founded” because the passports were already in the custody of the court.
He adjourned the case till January 9, 2017.
The EFCC, in the charges, alleged that Obla, while appearing in a suit numbered FHC/L/C/482c/2010 before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, offered a gratification of N5m to the judge to allegedly induce the judge to refrain from acting in the exercise of her official duties as a public officer.
Obla, the EFCC claimed, paid the money from the account of his company, Obla & Company Limited, with United Bank for Africa, to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia through the bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd in Diamond Bank Plc.
The EFCC claimed that the judge and the SAN acted contrary to sections 64 (1) and 97 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
In 24 out of the 30 counts, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was accused of unlawfully enriching herself as a public officer contrary to the provision of Section 82(a) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State No. 11, 2011.
The judge was accused of receiving a total of $793,800 in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015.