The Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has set a date to deliver judgment in the case of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Joseph Nwobike, who was accused of offering gratification of N750,000 and N300,000 to two judges.
Justice Raliat Adebiyi fixed the judgment date on Thursday after parties in the suit adopted their final written addresses.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Mr Nwobike for offering gratification to Justice Mohammed Yunusa and Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, both of whom had been dragged to court by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the lawyer offered the judges the money to allegedly pervert the course of justice.
Nwobike, who was first arraigned on five counts on March 9, 2016, however, pleaded not guilty.
The charges have been amended on two different occasions, each time leading to the re-arraignment of the senior advocate.
The last amendment to the charges saw Nwobike re-arraigned today (Thursday), after which the lawyers canvassed their final arguments.
His lead counsel, Mr Wale Akoni, urged the court to discharge and acquit his client, contending that the EFCC failed to substantiate its allegations against the lawyer.
Mr Akoni argued that there was no law that makes giving gifts to judges a crime and accused the EFCC of being desperate to nail his client at all costs.
He said in the EFCC’s desperation, it had amended the charges on three occasions after seeing that its case was going nowhere.
Nwobike’s counsel further said the case was based on mere suspicion or speculation, maintaining that “no matter how sweet or interesting it may sound, speculation cannot amount to proof.”
He also noted that contrary to the claim by the EFCC, the N750,000 that Nwobike gave to Justice Yunusa was not a bribe but “for the specific purpose of helping the (sick) mother of the gentleman.”
Mr Akoni said all the judgments which the anti-graft agency claimed that his client paid Justice Yunusa to give in his favour were all upheld by the Court of Appeal.
He also wondered why the EFCC failed to call the judges and court officials that Nwobike allegedly bribed to come and testify in court, despite interrogating all of them.
He then urged Justice Adebiyi to dismiss the charges and set Nwobike free.
On his part, the EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo countered Akoni and urged the court to convict Nwobike.
“Could it be said that in line with the evidence of PW1 to PW7, the exhibits that we have tendered and the evidence elicited from the defendant during cross-examination, the defendant did not commit the offence he was charged with?” Oyedepo queried.
He noted that Nwobike did not deny giving N750,000 to Justice Yunusa when he had cases before the judge, adding that it was no defence that the Court of Appeal upheld Justice Yunusa’s judgments in the cases.
The EFCC counsel said Akoni turned the law on its head with the arguments that judges can receive monetary gifts, stressing that “the only gifts that are allowed are complimentary gifts – cards, books.”
He stated that it was implausible that the commission would call the judges whom Nwobike allegedly bribed as witnesses since they were also complicit.
Oyedepo noted that already, those judges had been separately charged in relation to the allegations.
He further urged the judge to apply full probative value to all the evidence given by the prosecution and convict Nwobike accordingly.
After listening to both parties, Justice Adebiyi adjourned till April 30 for judgment.
08 February, 2018