The under attack high court judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who is facing a 30-count charge of bribery and money laundry, was treated to lavish foreign trips by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, while presiding over cases where the agency was either a party or had interest.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia held so much sway over NIMASA under the leadership of Patrick Akpobolokemi that the agency flouted its own employment policy simply to grant the judge’s daughter, who is an employee of the agency, a curiously extended study leave.
Interestingly, Mr Akpolobokemi alongside other officials of NIMASA is currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for laundering N1.2 billion.
In four of the charges against the Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, the EFCC alleged that she received a bribe of N5 million from senior lawyer, Godwin Obla, around May 21, 2015 with the aim of “perverting the course of justice in respect of suit number FHC/L/C/482C/10.
“That you, Hon. Justice Rita Ngozi Ofili-Ajumogobia, between the 10th and 30th day of May 2013, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being a judge of the Federal High Court, enriched yourself with a total sum of $130,000 through your account (0032091183) domiciled in Diamond Bank Plc, so as to have a significant increase in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain in relation to you your lawful income,” one of the charges against the duo read.
In the suit FHC/L/C/482C/10, a former director-general of NIMASA, Raymond Omatseye, was charged with N1.5 billion fraud involving bid rigging and contract splitting. The case was handed over to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia in November 2012 after the original judge in charge, Binta Nyako, was transferred to Makurdi, Benue State.
On May 21, 2016, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, sentenced Mr. Omatseye to five years in jail after finding him guilty of 24 out of the 27 counts of the charge. She specifically ruled that Mr. Omatseye awarded contracts above stipulated threshold.
Mr. Omatseye insisted he was innocent and has since approached the Appeal Court for a review of the judgment.
Ironically, Mr. Obla, who is now facing corruption charges alongside Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, was the counsel for the EFCC, which prosecuted Mr. Omatseye.
The EFCC has now claimed that Mr. Obla offered Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia a bribe of N5 million to declare Mr. Omatseye guilty. The anti-graft agency claimed that the senior lawyer, transferred the alleged bribe from the account of his company, Obla and Company Limited with United Bank for Africa, to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia through the bank account of Nigel and Colive Limited in Diamond Bank.
The EFCC said the judge and Mr. Obla acted contrary to sections 64 (1) and 97 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
Mr. Omatseye, who was placed on suspension while he was facing trial, alleged that forces within NIMISA did not want him back to his post and were ready to do anything to, including securing a bogus conviction, to keep him permanently away from the agency.