3rd March, 2021
By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, on Wednesday discharged and acquitted a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla standing trial alongside a Judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ngozi Ofili Ajumogobia on money laundering charges, while Justice Ajumogobia was re-arraigned on 15-count amended charge.
When the matter was mentioned, the EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Usman Umar Buhari, informed the court that the commission had filed an amended charge before the court that excluded the name of Godwin Obla, and that he should therefore be discharged while the amended charge should be read to justice Ajumogobia for her plea to be taken.
Thereafter, Dr Joshua Musa, appearing with G. Ogebe for Obla, urged the court to discharge and acquit Obla.
Consequently, the presiding Judge, Mohammed Liman discharged and acquitted him,and ordered that the amended charge should be read to Ajumogobia for her plea to be taken.
In the 15-count amended charge filed before the court by Usman Umar Buhari and read to Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili Ajumogobia, it was alleged that between 21st of May, 2014 and 11th July, 2014, Ajumogobia indirectly concealed the sum of N17 million in the Diamond bank account of Nigel & Colive Limited opened and operated by her, which sum she reasonably ought to have known forms part of unlawful act to wit: criminal breach of trust and unlawful enrichment.
It was also stated that between 30 May, 2013 and 5th day of June 2015, Ajumogobia indirectly retained the total sum of $655,000 Dollars in her account number 0032091183 domicile in Diamond bank Plc which sum she reasonably ought to have known forms part of unlawful act to wit:unlawful enrichment.
On the 5th day of June 2012, Ajumogobia was alleged to have indirectly retained the sum of N18 million from Arkleem Oil and Gas, while on the 21st of October, 2016 knowingly made a false statement where she stated as follows,”On the 11th of July, 2014 the same family that purchased my land made a further payment of N4 million. That same 11th July, 2014, a further payment of N3 million was paid in as further payment on account of the total price of N33 million. Also on the same day the same person paid in N5 million which was final payment of the purchase price for the sold land in Rita Ajumogobia street Asaba” to Lawal Abdullahi, an officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in the course of the exercise of his duty.
The offences alleged to have been committed by Ajumogobia are contrary to sections 15(2)(a) (b)(d),15(3),39(2)(a) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act as amended and punishable under the same Act.
She pleaded not guilty to all the counts, thereafter the prosecutor, Usman, who told the court that he intended to call seven witnesses, said in view of the plea of not guilty of the defendant, he asked for a trial date.
However, the defence counsel, M. Kuti urged the court to allow her to continue on the existing bail conditions.
Justice Liman, while adjourning till 21st and 28th of April, 2021 for trial to commence and continuation of trial ordered that the defendant should retain her bail conditions.