Court relaxes bail conditions for Nigerian judge

Court relaxes bail conditions for Nigerian judge
December 09 10:29 2016

Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos High Court has relaxed bail conditions for Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla who were charged for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The presiding judge said on Thursday that the commission’s decision not to oppose the application by the accused duo was responsible for his ruling which relaxed their bail conditions.

Reading a ruling he prepared after adjourning the morning proceedings till 2 p.m., Mr. Oshodi noted that Section 123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2011, empowers the court to vary bail conditions imposed on defendants at subsequent hearings.

“The prosecution did not oppose the submissions filed by the defendants,” said the judge.

“We must not forget that where facts and applications remain unchallenged or uncontroverted, the court is bound to accept those facts as the truth.”

The defendants, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, a serving federal judge, and Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, are facing a joint 30-count charge of fraud and money laundering brought by the EFCC.

The duo were jointly charged with a two-count charge of perverting the course of justice by the anti-graft agency.

Obla was charged with an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official during her service as a judge.

Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge of unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption by a public officer, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.

They pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

On November 28, Mr. Oshodi granted the defendants bail on own recognisance, but added that they should deposit N20 million each and their passport to the chief registrar of the court pending conclusion of trial.

But on Thursday, the defendants brought an application for variation of the bail, saying that the conditions were “too extreme.”

Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia said the EFCC had placed a ‘post no-debit/freezing order’ on all her bank accounts and, in any case, N20 million was “excessive and unaffordable” for her.

She also said the EFCC had collected her travel passport during the course of their investigation of the charges filed against her.

“Bail granted on excessive conditions amounts to a denial of bail,” Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia said.

In his application,  Obla noted that the cumulative monetary value of the offences charged against him was N5 million.

“N20 million is burdensome , the second defendant has made frantic efforts to comply with the conditions of the bail but had found it impossible,” he said.

Justice Oshodi replaced the N20 million condition with a bail bond of the same sum to be perfected within seven days.

“As at the time of writing this ruling, the court has in its custody the international passports of the defendants,” the judge said.

He also ordered the defendants to depose an affidavit of means in support of the bail bond.

The continuation of trial was adjourned till January 9, 2017.