Nwobike SAN’s Trial – Defence Fires Back, Flaws EFCC Witness

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The defence team of Dr Joseph Nwobike, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), charged with bribing some judges, on Tuesday told an Ikeja High Court that the EFCC did not complete its investigations before charging him to court for corruption.

Nwobike is being tired by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly perverting the course of justice and offering gratification to public officials.

On March 16, Mr Daniel Danladi, a detective with the anti-graft agency and a prosecution witness had revealed from an Extraction Report showed on the screen in the courtroom through a projector that Nwobike offered gratification to some judges.

He named the judges as Justice Mohammed Yinusa, Justice H.A Ngajiwa and Justice Musa Kurya, all of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court, Lagos.

The EFCC alleged that Nwobike was involved in illegal communications via text messages with Mrs Helen Ogunleye, Mr Baruwa, Mr Jide and one Debbie, who are all registrars of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

The defence team led by Mr O. Akani (SAN), on Tuesday disputed the claims of the EFCC and said that the anti-graft agency did not do a thorough investigation into the allegations.

Akani, while cross-examining Daniel, said: “The case against the defendant was filed in court on March 4, the judges involved in this matter were not interviewed by the commission until months after.

“It is safe to say that the EFCC did not complete its investigations before charging the defendant to court,” he said.

In response to Akani’s assertion, Daniel said:“Justices Mohammed Yinusa, H.A Ngajiwa, Musa Kurya and Agbadu-Fishim were interviewed between October and September 2016.

“The reason for that delay was that when this case started, we made efforts to invite the judges but they were not able to honour our invitation because of National Judicial Commission’s (NJC) probe.

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“We. however, went ahead to file the charges because we had strong evidence against the defendant.”

The detective admitted that Mrs Helen Ogunleye, a registrar at Justice Musa Kurya’s court, who had no involvement in the NJC probe was also interviewed by the anti-graft agency in October 2016, months after the charges against Nwobike were filed in court.

Daniel revealed that the judges did not admit to the EFCC that the money given to them by Nwobike was to pervert the course of justice.

“All the judges- Justice Agbadu-Fishim, Justice Kurya and Justice Yinusa gave several reasons why the money was paid into their accounts, they did not say that the money was to pervert the course of justice.

“When the commission interviewed the defendant, he claimed that the N750,000 transferred into Justice Yinusa’s account was meant to assist in the medical treatment of his mother.

“When we confronted Justice Yinusa, he also claimed that the money was for his mother’s treatment .

“Justice H.A Ngajiwa admitted receiving N300,000 from the defendant which was paid into the bank account of Hawajiya Ltd, which is his company account.

“The judge claimed that the money was for the purchase of law books.

“Our investigations did not reveal that the defendant had any case before Justice Agbadu-Fishim.

“The N100,000, N150,000 and N100,000 paid into his bank account by Nwobike was claimed by the judge to be towards his trip abroad for a medical checkup,” he said.

He continued:“The defendant also confirmed that the payments were gifts to Justice Agbadu-Fishim.

“Justice Kurya, however, denied receiving any money from the defendant, we also could not find any order that was allegedly discharged by Justice Kurya on behalf of the defendant.

“Mrs Helen Ogunleye, a court registrar of Justice Musa Kurya was interviewed by the commission and she admitted to receiving N250,000 from the defendant, claiming that he was rendering financial assistance to her.”

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Danladi also admitted under cross-examination that the administration judge in charge of assigning cases at the Federal High Court was not interviewed by the EFCC and said he was not present when Nwobike’s statement was taken.

“Mr Jide, the registrar of the Federal High Court, told our Commission that he was not the one who assigns cases but he takes the cases to the administration judge.

“We did not investigate the administration judge to factor in the cases involved in this trial and the criteria for assignment of these cases.

“The defendant was only interviewed in my presence but I was not present when his statement was taken;
his statement was taken by Mr Usman Zakari of the EFCC,” Daniel said.

The detective also admitted that the EFCC did not interview ‘Debbie’, a court registrar, who was allegedly mentioned in text message communication with Nwobike.

“I did not interview the said Debbie, I don’t know the nature of the relationship between her and the defendant and l don’t know what the $2,500 given to her by the defendant was to be used for.”

Akoni then proceeded to show the court the two text messages between Nwobike and Debbie.

The first text in which she allegedly wrote, “I have given him an envelope containing $2,400’’, while the second text was Debbie expressing thanks to the SAN.”

Danladi admitted that the over 14,000 text messages contained in the Extraction Report did not relate to the case.

“Not all the text messages contained in the Extraction Report relate to this case.

“Not all the matters contained in the text messages were placed before the judges, whose names were mentioned in the messages.”

Daniel admitted under cross-examination that not all the cases which the anti-graft agency claimed were unduly influenced by the SAN involved the EFCC.

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“In AMCON Vs Mopas Shipping Line Ltd and two others with suit no. FHC/CS/L/1307/2014, the EFCC was not a party to this case.

“I did not see any communication between Mr Jide and Mr Baruwa and the defendant in regard to the case.

“ The EFCC also did not receive any petition from the parties in respect of Justice Yinusa,who handled the case.

“I’m also not aware of the EFCC appealing against the decisions in Mr Simon John Adomene and four others Vs the EFCC with suit no. FHC/CS/L/471/2015 as well as Mr Simon John Adomene and three others Vs the EFCC with suit no. FSC/CS/1071/2015.

NAN reports that earlier during the trial, prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo while leading Daniel in evidence, revealed details of more text messages allegedly sent by the SAN to court staff.

“A particular lady named Debbie had texted the defendant requesting details on a particular case he is handing before one of the judges.

“The defendant sent a text message containing the suit no. which was FHC/L/CP/296/2016 as well as the parties to the suit.

“The next text message he sent stated that the `interim order should not be discharged’, this text was sent at 7.20pm on July 30, 2015.

“Another text message from Debbie said: “It is done, I will give you details when we are done, the defendant is in court. Have a glorious day’ and the defendant sent her a text message, saying ‘Ok thanks’.

“A text message sent by Debbie on Sep. 29, 2015 said ‘I have given him the envelope containing $2,400, my regards’,” Daniel read to the court.

Justice Raliatu Adebiyi adjourned the case to May 5 and May 18 for continuation of trial.

(NAN)

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