The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday amended its 27-count charge against lawyer Rickey Tarfa before Justice A. A. Akintoye of an Igbosere Magistrate’ Court, Lagos.
The anti-graft agency re-arraigned Mr. Tarfa on a reduced 26 counts charge bordering on the same offences it preferred against him on March 10.
Before his plea was taken, Mr. Tarfa’s lawyer, Abiodun Owonikoko, objected to the reading of the amended charge on the ground that it will overreach the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos.
Mr. Owonikoko argued that the Court of Appeal will on January 19 hear the appeal filed against the ruling of the high court.
He submitted that the amended charge raised constitutional issues that an accused person should not be charged twice for the same offence.
Mr. Owonikoko, a senior advocate of Nigeria, argued that the amended charge is a violation of Section 39(9) of the Constitution which prohibits a prosecutor from arraigning a defendant twice for the same offence.
But, in his response, EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo argued that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) allows the prosecution to amend a charge at any time before judgment is given.
He urged the court not to allow the defence delay the trial.
In a bench ruling, Justice Akintoye dismissed Mr. Tarfa’s objection adding that there was nothing wrong with the amended charge.
She ordered the registrar to read the amended charge to the defendant.
Mr. Tarfa, a senior advocate of Nigeria, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the case till November 28 for continuation of trial.
In March, the anti-graft agency accused Mr. Tarfa of wilful obstruction of its authorised officers, refusal to declare asset, making false information and offering gratification to a public official.
It alleged, among others, that the lawyer offered N5.3 million gratification to Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, in order to compromise the judge.
The commission said that Mr. Tarfa transferred the money in several tranches to Justice Nganjiwa between June 27, 2012 and December 23, 2014.