The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday arrested a former Federal High Court judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, on the premises of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja after charges against her were struck out by the court.
Ofili-Ajumogobia was arrested by about 10 EFCC officials and driven away in a white Toyota Hilux with Abuja number plate BWR 637AT.
The dismissed judge, who wore a cast on her right leg, had attempted to leave the courtroom after Justice Hakeem Oshodi struck out the 30 counts bordering on corruption and abuse of office brought against her and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla.
Ofili-Ajumogobi and Obla were arrested by the EFCC in 2016.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Upon sighting the anti-corruption agency’s officials, Ofili-Ajumogobia returned to the courtroom to seek protection from the court.
But Justice Oshodi told her that there was nothing he could do.
However, the EFCC officials allowed Obla to leave the court premises.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Oshodi held that based on the judicial precedent set by Justice Nganjiwa vs FRN, the high court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit as the EFCC “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.
He said despite the EFCC being aware of the decision in Nganjiwa’s case regarding the proper procedure to discipline erring judicial officers, the body still went ahead with the case.
The judge said, “As of Monday, December 11, 2017, the EFCC was aware of the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa vs FRN. The amended information has yet to be filed and the 12th prosecution witness was still giving evidence.”
He added, “We have not found a way in the judicial atmosphere to discipline or penalise an agency of government through fines or costs.
“The court has no jurisdiction to hear the first amended charge of February 21, 2018, of 31 counts. This suit is hereby struck out.
Meanwhile, the EFCC said it rearrested Ofili-Ajumogobia to enable it to prefer fresh criminal charges against her.
The commission said the development was in line with the decision of the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, in a case involving Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, which ruled that a judge could not be prosecuted until they had either been dismissed or compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council.
“Consequent upon the fact that the commission had presented Ofili-Ajumogobia before the NJC for disciplinary action and that the NJC had taken a position, the commission would now approach the court to prefer fresh charges her,” acting spokesman for the EFCC, Tony Orilade, said in a statement.
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, criticised the EFCC for rearresting Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Fani-Kayode said in statement, “This is not justice; it is sheer wickedness. I appeal to President (Muhammadu) Buhari to put a stop to this wholesale, vindictive and vicious persecution and to caution the EFCC. If we do not fear man, we should at least fear God!”
BY Dominic C. Odoh
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