An Ikeja High Court on Thursday struck out the corruption suit filed against Justice James Agbadu-Fishim, a judge of the National Industrial Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ruling delivered by Justice Raliatu Adebiyi was in response to an application filed by the defence, citing the Court of Appeal case of Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
According to the precedent set by the Nganjiwa case, the EFCC lacks the powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such judicial officers have first been dismissed or retired by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The judge noted while striking out the suit that Mr Agbadu-Fishim was not investigated and dismissed by the NJC before being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency.
Justice Adebiyi, in the short ruling, said “The defendant is a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) and is standing trial for unlawful enrichment contrary to Section 82 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.
“The defendant had not been removed by the NJC which is a condition precedent though the NJC received a letter from the prosecution and gave the latter permission to prosecute the defendant,” she said.
Justice Adebiyi also noted that though NJC directed the head of the National Industrial Court to order that Mr Agbadu-Fishim stop sitting, no petition was filed at the NJC against the embattled judge.
“The suit is struck out due to non-compliance with the conditions precedent,” she said.
Following the ruling, counsel to Mr Agbadu-Fishim, Amuda Kanike, in an oral application, requested that the international passports of the embattled judge that was in the court should be released to him.
Justice Adebiyi granted the request.
Responding, Wahab Shittu, the lead prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, thanked the court for the ruling.
NAN reports that the EFCC had arraigned Mr Agbadu-fishim for allegedly receiving N4.4million from seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), a lawyer and a law firm from 2013 to 2015.
The seven SANs that were accused of unlawfully enriching the judge are — Felix Fagbohungbe, Paul Usoro, Uche Obi, Muiz Banire, Adeniyi Akintola Gani Adetola Kazeem and Joseph Nwobike.
The prosecution alleged in the 19-count charge of unlawful enrichment that the judge received funds from a Lagos-based lawyer, Enobong Etteh, and Alliance Law Firm.
According to the EFCC, Felix Fagbohungbe, deposited N200,000 on Dec. 5, 2013, N700,000 between May 10 and Dec. 19, 2014, N250,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and N250,000 also on Feb. 26, 2015 into the First Bank account with no. 3008199491 belonging to Mr Agbadu-fishim.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Mr Usoro between Aug. 5 and Dec. 12, 2015 deposited N300,000, between March 25 and March 26, deposited N400,000 and N100,000 into the First Bank account of the judge with no. 3008199491.
The law firm of Gani Adetola Kazeem, paid N100,000 on Feb. 10, 2015 and Uche Obi between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20, 2013 paid N200,000, Alliance Law Firm deposited N250,000 into the First Bank account of the judge with no. 3008199491.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Etteh, paid the sum of N200,000 on two occasions into the First Bank account of the judge with no. 3008199491 on Oct. 27, 2014.
The EFCC told the court that Mr Akintola deposited N200,000 on July 12, 2014, N100,000 on Feb. 10, 2014, N100,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and also N100,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 into the First Bank account of the judge with no. 2006900216.
The EFCC claimed that Mr Agbadu-fishim received N150,000 on Dec. 12, 2014 and N100,000 on Sep. 10, 2015 from Joseph Nwobike in his First Bank account with no. 2006900216.
Mr Agbadu-fishim had, however, denied the 19-count charge.