A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday suspended proceedings till February 6, 2020, in the Money Laundering trial of a former judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Justice Mohammed Aikawa said proceedings would be suspended to await the outcome of a letter to the chief judge of the court, seeking re-assignment of the case.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Godwin Obla, on 18 counts bordering on conspiracy, unlawful enrichment, retention of crime proceeds and money laundering.
The defendants were re-arraigned on May 15, 2019, but pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
The court granted them bail for N10 million each with two sureties in like sum.
Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) appeared for the former judge at all times, while Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) appeared for Obla.
When the case was called yesterday, Mr U. U. Buhari appeared for the prosecution while Messrs Mobolaji Kuti and Ferdinard Orbih (SAN) appeared for the first and second defendants.
Buhari informed the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with trial, but Orbih said the defence wrote a letter to the chief judge of the court on November 14, seeking re-assignment of the case.
He added that the defence notified the trial court about the development, on November 26, 2019, through a letter.
Orbih urged the court to grant a time frame to enable the chief judge to respond.
In response, Buhari told the court that he had not seen the letter but was not aware if the EFCC was served.
He said such a letter should not operate as a stay of proceedings in the matter.
Justice Aikawa adjourned the matter.
“I hereby stay proceedings till February 6, 2020, pending the decision of the CJ – chief judge – on the issue,” he said.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiracy on May 21, 2014, to indirectly conceal different sums of money in a bank account of Nigel & Colive Limited, a company alleged to be operated by Ajumogobia.
The commission also alleged that they conspired to retain in the account N500 million, which formed part of proceeds of unlawful acts.
It said Ajumogobia, on different dates in 2014, retained N5 million, $150,000, $20,000, $30,000, $50,000 and $55,000 in the account.
The EFCC also accused Ajumogobia of indirectly concealing N12 million in the same account, and making false statement to the EFCC that the money was from sale of a landed property.
The alleged offences contravene the provisions of sections 15 (2) (a) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.