I am still a Federal High Court Judge, Ajumogobia claims

EMBATTLED Federal High Court Judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who was charged with unlawful enrichment and money laundering, on Monday maintained before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that she still remains a serving judge.

Ajumogobia through her counsel, Chief Robert Clarke, told the court that the President’s approval for her dismissal has not been gazetted.

The embattled Judge revealed this while.moving an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear her matter.

Tribune Online recalls that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had re-arraigned Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla on 18 counts, to which they pleaded not guilty before Justice Justice Rilwan Aikawa.

At Monday proceedings, Ajumogobia’s counsel, Clarke while moving his application on the preliminary objection noted that his client is still a judge of the Federal High Court and as such could not be tried in line with the precedent set in the case of Nganjiwa.

According to him, the letter exhibited by the EFCC, which was purportedly written and signed by the President to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, giving approval for her sack in line with the NJC’s recommendation was not enough to satisfy Section 106(ai) of the Evidence Act 2011 which provided that an official communication of the government of the federation has to be produced in a gazette and the Gazette shall be prima facie proof of any facts of the public nature which they intended to notify.

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He further urged the court to hold that the absence of an official gazette stating that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is no longer a judge is fatal to the EFCC’s case.

“We filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of this court to hear this trial or any other trial concerning Justice Ajumogobia. The basis of this application is that she is still a judge of the Federal High Court. An acknowledgement of that fact caused her trial to be struck out at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja based on Nganjiwas case which is still pending at the appeal court.

“The sole issue here is whether the charge is competent but the EFCC has brought in exhibit EFCC 2 which according to them is a letter giving approval for the NJC’s recommendation. The court has to determine the status of exhibit EFCC 2 to see whether it is a document that can be rendered and admitted in this proceeding and when admitted, what evidential value can be ascribed to it.

“The exhibit was addressed to the CJN in his capacity as the CJN and not to the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission and thus makes it a private document because the document itself was marked by the President signing and marking it restricted. Having been marked by the maker as restricted means it cannot be used by a third party for any purpose.

“Therefore, Exhibit EFCC 2 cannot be used for any purpose. The prosecutors have therefore failed to show that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is still not a judge of the Federal High Court and until that document is brought, the court’s hands are tied.”

Responding, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that it had jurisdiction to hear the case especially as the first defendant was no longer a serving judicial officer when the instant charge was filed.

Further urging the court to rely on the exhibits placed by the EFCC before the court and to dismiss Ajumogobia’s application, Oyedepo noted that her preliminary objection did not raise the issue of Gazette

Justice Rilwan Aikawa adjourned till June 28 for ruling on the preliminary objection.