The corruption trial of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia continued on Friday before the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, with the prosecution highlighting a payment of N8m into her company’s account on February 4, 2015.
The 12th prosecution witness, Abdullahi Lawal, told the court that when Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, a serving judge of the Federal High Court, was confronted with her statement of account in respect of the N8m payment, “she lied about the source and the purpose of the payment.”
The judge is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged bribery and unlawful enrichment.
Among other things, the anti-graft agency accused her of receiving a total of $793,800 in several tranches from different sources between 2012 and 2015, “so as to have a significant increase in your assets, that you cannot reasonably explain the increase in relation to your lawful income.”
Also being prosecuted is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Godwin Obla, who was accused of giving the judge a bribe of N5m.
The two defendants had pleaded not guilty.
At the resumed trial on Friday, Lawal, an investigator with the EFCC, told the presiding judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi, that in the course of investigation, the EFCC discovered a payment of N8m into the account of Nigel and Colive Ltd., a company belonging to Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the investigator said, “She (Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia) was confronted about that payment where she mentioned that the money was from the sale of her land at Abeokuta.
“She said the land was sold to two people, she first mentioned one Haruna Abdullahi and later mentioned that the land was sold to one Tola.
“Our investigation revealed that Haruna was a Bureau de Change operator in Lagos here and there was no such transaction between the parties; whereas Tola was a building contractor; he was the contractor that handled the building of her residence at Parkview Estate and there was no form of land transaction between them.
“The payment of N8m was done by one Grand B Limited. There was no transaction between Grand B Ltd and Nigel and Colive.”
Lawal testified further that one Omali Musa, an Assistant Comptroller at the Nigeria Customs Service, paid N12m on July 11, 2014 into the account of Nigel and Colive Ltd.
According to him, the N12m was paid in three tranches of N4m, N3m and N5m on the same day.
In the course of Friday’s proceedings, the prosecution also attempted to establish that the judge lied about being hospitalised at Gold Cross Hospital, Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The prosecution played in the open court the audio recording of two telephone conversations between Lawal and Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.
In the first, Lawal’s voice was heard asking Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia if she was still at the hospital, to which she responded, “Yes.”
But when Lawal asked: “Which ward?” the judge, with what seemed to be a note of agitation or surprise in her voice, responded, “Are you here!”
And as the investigator responded, “Yes, I am at the hospital”, there was no further response from the other end, even as the investigator kept saying, “Hello! Hello! Hello!”
When asked by the prosecutor what happened, Lawal said, “What happened was that Honourable Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s phone went off; I was calling and she was not responding.”
Lawal explained that his decision to call the judge on the telephone was because, upon getting to the hospital, he discovered that she was not there, contrary to what she had told the investigator during an earlier telephone conversation.
The audio recording of the second telephone conversation between the judge and the investigator indicated that the judge had told the investigator that she was hospitalised at Gold Cross Hospital.
She had assured the investigator that she would report at the EFCC’s office as soon as she was discharged, saying she was not running away and that she would ask the doctors to discharge her soon, as “I will tell them I am not as sick as they think I am.”
Towards the end of the conversation, the judge had asked whether the investigator intended to visit her at the hospital, to which the investigator said, “No.”
When asked why he later visited the hospital, the investigator said, “We just went there to confirm that she was there.”
Further proceedings were adjourned till February 23, 2018.
26 January, 2018