Two audio recordings which depict Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, a judge of the Federal High Court, lying to an official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were on Friday played at an Ikeja High Court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that recordings were aired during the examination-in-chief of Mr Lawal Abdullahi, an EFCC Investigator and 12th prosecution witness at the judge’s corruption trial.
Abdullahi, while being led in evidence by Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the EFCC prosecutor, revealed that the judge attempted to evade investigators of the anti-graft agency by falsely claiming that she was admitted in hospital.
To back-up his claims, the first of the audio recordings which are part of Exhibit S1 was played in the courtroom.
In the recordings, Abdullahi could be heard telling the judge that the EFCC team was in the hospital to see her.
He said, “Madam, right now we are here in the hospital but you are not here, please can you tell us which ward you are in ?”
Ofili-Ajumogobia: “Okay”, and the phone line went dead.
The EFCC investigator can be heard saying, “Hello, hello” without response from Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Explaining the first audio recording, Abdullahi said: “That’s my voice and that’s Hon. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia’s voice.
“When this conversation ensued, I was at Goldcross Hospital, Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and Hon. Ofili-Ajumogobia went off the line and our communication ceased.
“She was not in the hospital that was why I made the call, there are other conversations that we had.
“What prompted us to go to the hospital was the first call because I had called her initially and she said she was in the hospital.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia: “I have been on admission at the Goldcross Hospital, the hospital is at No. 15, Awolowo Road, let me get discharged, I’m around, I’m not running away.
“Can I call you on this number? Do you want to come there to interview me?”
EFCC: “No, no, no.”
Ofili-Ajumogobia: “Okay let me reach you when I’m discharged.”
NAN recalls that during his testimony on Sept. 30, 2017, the EFCC investigator alleged that after Ofili-Ajumogobia had realised that he was in the hospital, she was smuggled into the hospital at 11.30 p.m.
“She was smuggled through a back entrance by the staff in connivance with the medical director of the hospital one Dr Solanke,” Abdullahi said.
He had earlier told the court that the judge unlawfully enriched herself with N8 million from a company called Grand B Ltd.
“In the course of our investigations, we discovered that sometime in February 2015, the sum of N8 million was paid into her Lordship’s Nigel and Colive bank account.
“She was confronted about the payment where she mentioned that the money was for the sale of land in Abeokuta.
“She stated that it was sold to two people – Haruna Abdullahi and one Kola.
“Our investigation further revealed that Haruna Abdullahi was a Bureau de Change operator in Lagos and there was no transaction between the two parties.
“Kola was a building contractor, he was the contractor that built two parts of her residence at Parkview Estate and there was no form of land transaction between them.
“The payment of N8 million was done by one Grand B Ltd and Nigel and Colive Ltd,” the EFCC investigator said.
Interjecting, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), the lead Defence Counsel to Ofili-Ajumogobia, opposed the testimony concerning the N8 million transaction: “I don’t think there is any charge on which this evidence is being given.”
Responding, Oyedepo said: “We have tendered Exhibit B3 and it is our duty to explain Exhibit B3 to My Lord.”
Justice Hakeem Oshodi, however, noted that a charge on the alleged unlawful enrichment of N8 million by the judge was not before the court.
“I will like to request for a short adjournment to amend the charge to reflect the N8 million transaction,” Oyedepo said.
Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Godwin Obla (SAN), a former prosecutor of the EFCC.
Both have been jointly charged with a two-count offence bordering on perverting the course of justice.
Obla is facing an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official, while serving as a judge.
Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
The duo denied all the charges.
After Abdullahi’s testimony, Mr I. A. Adedipe (SAN), Obla’s lawyer, in an application dated January 18, requested for the release of Obla’s international passport.
“We seek the release of the second defendant’s international passport to enable him travel to the United States of America between now and Feb. 12.
“We also request your Lordship’s leave to allow him to hold onto his passport for four weeks (Feb. 12 to March 13) to enable him renew his visa,” Adedipe said.
In his ruling, Justice Oshodi granted Adedipe’s request.
“Prayer one is granted as prayed while prayer 2 is granted but the passport must be returned before March 5.
“The case is adjourned to Feb. 23 for the continuation of evidence of PW12 and trial,” the judge said.