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Friday, 25 May 2018

It is wrong for Judicial officers to maintain corporate account – NJC

It is wrong for Judicial officers to maintain corporate account – NJC

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia

The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Friday told an Ikeja High Court that that judicial officers are not allowed to maintain and maintain corporate account in the course of service.

An official of the NJC, Ramatu Hassan Ahmed stated this while been led in evidence by prosecuting counsel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Oyedepo at resume trial of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Chief Godwin Obla for alleged unlawful enrichment.

Ahmed identified, the first defendant, Rita Ofili Ajumogobia as customer to the accounts including corporate accounts, in which $894,400 and N56, 230,005 were deposited.

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Alluding to relevant section of the handbook, she said, paragraph 8.5 of the handbook stated that it is wrong for a judge to use his position for personal advantage, neither can a judge use his/her position to contact any colleague with a view to influencing the outcome of a case.

She earlier referred to paragraph 2.5 of the book and stated expressly that a “judge shall not accept gift from a lawyer who might appear before him and accept gift provided the gift is not given in period of festivities and it is not of pecuniary nature.

Ahmed also told the court that estacode due to judicial officers are paid in Naira and not in foreign currency.

She enumerated the role of judicial officers as found in the code of conduct for judicial officers and handbook.

Ramatu told the court that aside their salaries and estacode, judicial officers receive other allowances as spelt out in their handbook.

She however explained of such allowances and other payments are disbursed through the respective courts where they serve.

Attempt by Oyedepo to make her interprete provisions of the handbook was objected to by Wole Akoni (SAN), counsel to the first defendant (Rita Ofili Ajumogobia) and Ifedayo Adedipe(SAN), counsel to the second defendant (Godwin Obla).

Adedipe told the court that a witness cannot interprete the content of the document before the court.

He said that the question the prosecution is asking is irrelevant under the Evident Act.

“She has tendered the document, it is for the court to interprete the document”, he argued. Earlier, Akoni had told the court that it is trite law that evidence must be relevant to the charge and that what is being read is not relevant to the charge against his client.

However, failure by EFCC to produce another witness after cross examination of the NJC official sparked a row between the judge, EFCC and the senior lawyers.

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Justice Hakeem Oshodi, responding to the request of the prosecuting counsel that the matter be adjourned due to the absence of the next witness, said it was not in the place of the prosecution to say that trial cannot go on.

“Let the court be the one that will say, trial cannot go on. You did not come fully prepared. It is good that NJC is here. Tell them this is what is happening, we got stuck because there is no more witness, not the court. I hope you are seeing it”, he said, adding that he has set aside the whole of Friday for the case yet the EFCC is seeking adjournment.

Oyedepo who was still on his feet said, “My lord, I brought a witness and was cross-examined today. I brought a witness, but I did not know how long the cross-examination will take.

The last time, a witness was examined for two days, the witness has been coming. The last time, the witness was in court. I don’t need anybody to commend me, but I know that the little contribution I have made, I know I am not indolent, I am not lazy”, he said.

Justice Oshodi, at this stage, cautioned Oyedepo and told him to leave such commendation at the discretion of the court and to learn to do away with such mentality.

Responding, Adedipe said, “today’s adjourent at Oyedopo’s instance is painful. My learned SAN just got his son a wife, but he is here because Oyedopo asked us to be here. You granted press interview blaming senior lawyers for delay. I ought to be in Akure but I am here. I would have asked for a cost”, he said

Adedipe said that there is need to amend the law so that the antigraft agency can pay for cost.

“I will also be asking for adjournment sometime in October”, he said.

But Justice Oshodi objected, stressing that will give the impression that the court is responsible for the delay.

At prosecution’s request, the matter was adjourned till June 8 for continuation of trial.

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