Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
Dismissed federal judge Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and her co-accused, Chief Godwin Obla, SAN, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an 18-count corruption charge.
The duo were re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Wednesday before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on charges bordering on corruption, money laundering and unlawful enrichment by a public officer.
The dismissed judge had earlier been arranged before the court on April 18, on same charge but her co-accused Obla was not present.
Read also: Ofili-Ajumogobia docked again
At the resumed trial of the accused Wednesday, Obla appeared before the court and EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo prayed the court to take the plea of the accused afresh.
When the charge was read to the two defendants, Ajumogobia pleaded not guilty to 17 of the 18 counts in which her name was mentioned, while Chief Obla pleaded not guilty to the counts preferred against him.
After the plea of the defendants were taken, EFCC prosecutor Oyedepo urged the court to remand Obla in prison custody and fix a date for commencement of trial. However Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, appearing for Obla, orally applied for bail, in telling the court that Obla is a legal practitioner who was called to bar in 1984, and being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) the court to should admit him to bail on liberal terms.
The prosecution did not oppose the bail application, but rather asked for a trial date. However, Chief Robert Clark, SAN, leading another senior Advocate Mr Wale Akoni and five other lawyers for the defence of Ajumogobia, told the court that the preliminary objection filed before the court on May 13 on behalf of his client challenging jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter should be settled.
In his response Oyedepo told the court that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended that Ajumogobia be dismissed, President Mohammadu Buhari having signed her dismissal on November,7, 2018.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Aikawa, while adjourning session till May 23, ordered Oyedepo to produce a copy of Ajumogobia’s dismissal letter.
He granted bail to Obla on the same condition granted to Ajumogobia when she was first re-arraigned on April 18, and ordered that Obla be released to his lawyer pending perfection of bail granted.