Is Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia on trial for jailing Ex-NIMASA DG?

Posted by Garba Idris | 28 January 2017 | 3,605 times

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•Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

These are indeed strange times. These are times when the rule of the thumb has become the norm. And nothing we know is as it should be. For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), you cannot be sure what is right and what is not, as they are determined by variables outside the reasoning of the law and common sense.

In the purported fight against corruption embarked on by President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, it is difficult to understand the motive or even why the administration would choose not to maintain a standard understandable rule in the so-called fight. From targeting perceived enemies or opponents, the government has since moved to Judges, organising ‘Sting Operations’ and putting some people almost perpetually under lock and key.

But I am still at a loss as to why the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has put the duo of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr Godwin Obla (SAN) on trial. It really beats my imagination that the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, a lawyer, could give his nod for such a charade to go on. Of course, the EFCC has filed a 30-count charge against the Federal High Court Judge and Obla, who until recently was a counsel of the anti-graft agency. At the heart of the charge is the spurious allegation that Obla offered Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia the sum of N5 million to pervert the course of justice in FHC/1/C/482C/10. Interestingly, the EFCC has included such other charges as corrupt enrichment, money laundering and conspiracy to fit into a regular pattern of all other cases before the courts, so as to give the media and the general public enough to chew while the high drama lasts.

However, it should be a cause for concern for all lovers of democracy, as well as those who voted for the President, to pause awhile and ponder why the government decided to prosecute Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla, ostensibly for alleged bribery. Could the government truly be sure that it is doing this as part of its anti-corruption agenda?

While the government wants us to believe that the trial is as being presented at the Federal High Court where the two suspects have been charged, I make bold to say that deductions from the courtroom point to a different direction. The indicators devolve into a witch-hunt. Definitely, some high-up big man needs to be appeased.

Perhaps, some elucidation may be necessary. If, indeed, Obla bribed Ofili-

Ajumogobia, it means the former had a case before the latter, the outcome of which was manipulated through the bribe to perpetrate injustice. Anything short of this is incongruous and does not stand to reason.

It beats the imagination that the said Senior Advocate could be said to have offered bribe, ostensibly, on behalf of the EFCC to have Omatseye jailed. Why would he have done that? Was it the EFCC that provided the said N5million? Why must monetary inducement come in before conviction could be secured? So many questions are begging for answers.

More importantly if, indeed, Obla bribed Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia to have the ex-NIMASA DG jailed in case No FHC/1/C/482C/10, should the EFCC not be contented that a conviction, no matter how it was obtained, was the outcome of the case? Magu ought to be excited that despite alleged frustrations in the judicial process, at least, his agency was able to get this case through. And, in the same manner, Obla and Justice Ofili-Ajugomobia ought to be toasts of the anti-graft agency. But, rather than get commendation for diligent prosecution, the EFCC decided to put the duo in the dock for alleged corruption; an action which undoubtedly deserves close scrutiny. Nigerians need to know why the tables suddenly turned against them.

Given the manner Buhari’s government goes about the so-called anti-corruption battle, it should not be a surprise that there are other extraneous factors. And the coming days may reveal the real fangs of government, which it had unsuccessfully tried to disguise since its inception on May 29, 2015.

Already, there are suggestions that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia has been put up for the guillotine mainly because of her blunt refusal to play ball in some high-profile cases before her court. She is also said to have incurred the wrath of the powers-that-be in Abuja when she let go a former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. If this was not the case, I do not see what other motives government can proffer as reasons for its present cause of action. In any case, why would the EFCC present separate facts to the media during so-called investigation from what it has taken to the court?

Fortunately, Nigerians are aware of the hyper-sensitivity and contempt of the government for free speech and its desperation to kill the voices of reason in the polity. Therefore, it is public knowledge that the APC administration would prefer that the likes of Fani Kayode who have become a scourge are permanently behind bars. Notwithstanding that the government would want us to believe otherwise, it has become obvious that the travail of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is not isolated. That it follows after an established pattern that has seen other judges and justices being put on trial for alleged corruption. And their main offence is refusal to co-operate and hound opponents into detention ad infinitum.

Two Supreme Court judges, namely Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, are today under investigation or being tried for corruption. Others are the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, who was picked up in Sokoto; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; Justice Mu’azu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court); Justice Bashir Sukola, and Justice Ladan Manir from the Kaduna State High Court.

Plausible as the trial of the judges may seem, it is more than a coincidence that almost all of them had at various times in the past dished out judgements against the All Progressives Congress. Those who did not fall into this category had earlier been indicted by the National Judicial Commission (NJC) and recommended for prosecution, making the action of government a somewhat an overkill.

Sadly, the Buhari's government has often gone after straws and haystacks in the fight against corruption. Media trial and self-help, including the use of brute force and outright intimidation have become indices and standard gauge for measuring all it has done so far. You don't have to look far to see this negative imprint in the activities of the EFCC, Department of State Security Services (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), etc. Yet, the administration seems unperturbed by the myriad of criticisms against the style adopted so far in the fight against corruption. It is daily losing credibility and the support of millions who voted for it in 2015. Neither is it bothered that even the international community has taken note of its scapegoat approach and tokenism in a critical sector where transparency and absence of bias should be the abiding mantra.

In the case of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla, I have decided to maintain what lawyers call a watching brief, waiting for the moment when EFCC witnesses will turn against each other. I'm patiently waiting for the moment when Magu or his surrogates would come to court to testify that the agency gave Obla N5 million to bribe the Federal High Court Judge. It's either that one or some more bizarre explanation would come up as the trial goes on.

Meanwhile, I'm not expecting any breakthrough other than the constant witch-hunt that has become the thrust of the anti-corruption fight. Once anyone under investigation, arrest or trial joins the APC, I expect that government would discontinue prosecution against such a person. Nothing can be more predictable.

In the same vein, I expect some of the affected judges to recant or engage in judicial summersault, to escape further tightening of the noose or possible conviction. Either way, government has its way. But, the anti-corruption war would continue its downward descent into ignominy. If only President Buhari and his goons are aware of the consequences of their actions.

•Garba, a Public Affairs analyst, writes from Gusau, Zamfara State.

Source: News Express

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