Judge Granted Embattled SAN Permission to Travel Abroad

An Ikeja High Court has granted an embattled Judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, and Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, both facing trial over alleged corruption, permission to travel abroad.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on May 26, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr. Obla’s defence counsel, in separate applications, had requested the release of the duo’s international passports, to enable them seek medical treatment overseas.

Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, in a 17-paragraph affidavit in support of her application, claimed to be suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension, palpitations, and stress-related issues.

Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had opposed the applications, stating that it was a ploy to stall the trial, noting that their alleged illnesses could be treated in Nigeria.

Justice Hakeem Oshodi, in a ruling on Thursday, ordered the release of their international passports which had been in the custody of the court, as part of their bail conditions.

Mr. Oshodi also noted that the EFCC did not provide proof that the alleged illnesses of the defendants could be treated in Nigeria.

“The prosecution failed to give evidence why the applicant’s sicknesses cannot be treated in Nigeria.

“Also how the prosecutor came to the decision that the defendants would jump bail is best known to him.

“I believe that the first defendant, as a Federal High Court Judge, has a lot to lose if she considers the idea of jumping bail.

“The Chief Registrar is hereby ordered to release the international passport of the first defendant to enable her travel abroad between June 7 and June 13, 2017.

“The first defendant must return the passport to the Chief Registrar on or before July 1, 2017,’’ Mr. Oshodi said.

Granting Mr. Obla permission to travel to Houston, Texas, in the U.S. for medical treatment, Justice Oshodi noted that the SAN’s passport must be returned to the court on July 4.

“The second defendant is also granted leave to travel for medical treatment and must also return his passport to the Chief Registrar on July 4,’’ he said.

After the ruling, Charles Musa, lawyer, testified as the 10th prosecution witness for the anti-graft agency.

The EFFC alleged that Mr. Musa, a classmate and friend of the judge, drafted the deed of agreement of Nigel and Colive Ltd, a company linked by the anti-graft agency to Ofili-Ajumogobia with another company, County and City Bricks Ltd.

According to the EFCC, the account of Nigel and Colive Ltd, was allegedly used to launder funds illegally by Ofili-Ajumogobia during her tenure as a judge.

Mr. Musa, who was being led in evidence by Mr. Oyedepo, denied signing or drafting the deed of agreement between the two companies.

“I sent her an email about the terms of agreement between the companies and she did not get back to me again,” Mr. Musa said.

Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr. Obla, a former prosecutor of the EFCC, are jointly charged on two-counts of perverting the course of justice.

Mr. Obla is facing an additional two-count charge of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official, while serving as a judge.

Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption by a public officer, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.

Both denied all the charges.

The case was adjourned until July 6 for continuation of trial. (NAN)

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