Why I sent money to Nigerian judges, senior lawyer accused of corruption says

Joseph Nwobike
Joseph Nwobike

A senior advocate, Joseph Nwobike, who is standing trial on charges of offering gratification to some judges, on Monday told an Ikeja High Court why he gave money to the judges.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr. Nwobike is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an 11-count charge bordering on perverting the course of justice and offering gratification to public officials.

The anti-graft agency alleged that Mr. Nwobike offered gratifications to some judges of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court to influence them to act contrary to their official capacities.

The EFCC also claimed that Mr. Nwobike engaged in sending illegal text messages with four registrars of the Federal High Court in a bid to unduly influence his cases being tried by the judges.

Mr. Nwobike, however, denied all the charges.

While being led in evidence by his lawyer, Olawale Akoni, the accused denied giving gratification to Justice Samson Uwaifo, a retired justice of the Supreme Court.

“I don’t know retired Justice Samson Uwaifo of the Supreme Court personally, long after Justice Uwaifo retired, we had a client who had a dispute with the National Examinations Council (NECO).

“The parties went to court and the court appointed Hon. Justice Uwaifo as the sole arbitrator to the dispute.

“As it is customary in arbitration, we and the other party were asked to provide money for the preliminary stages of the arbitration.

“We sent some money to him and one Mr Seun Ibitoye, a registrar, to kick-off the preliminary stages of the arbitration.

“My Lord, Justice Uwaifo had retired about eight or nine years before he was contracted to do the arbitration.

“We initially purchased a bank draft for N1.5 million in the name of Justice Uwaifo as the arbitrator, but we were later advised to purchase it in the name of the registrar,” Mr. Nwobike said.

He denied giving false information to the anti-graft agency by saying that the only judicial officer he had ever helped was Justice Mohammed Yinusa.

“I did not give false information to the EFCC and there was no intention on my part to give false information to the EFCC or their officials.

“In my statement to the EFCC, I stated that I gave Justice H.A Ngajiwa money for the purchase of books for his library.

“I wrote in my statement that I gave N300,000 to Justice Ngajiwa and N750,000 to Justice Yinusa and I stated their purposes.”

On the alleged gratification he gave to Justice James Agbadu-Fishim, the SAN said the money was given as a form of `assistance’ to a friend.

He said: “Justice Fishim and I became friends when we were post-graduate students of the University of Lagos, he left for the University of Abuja.

“I did not see him until after a while and it took a long time before I got to know that he had been appointed a judge of the National Industrial Court.

“Justice Fishim told me that his guardian who trained him died and as it is customary among friends, I made my contributions toward the burial.

“He told me some time later that his father died and I contributed some money for him as it is customary among friends.

“Some time later, he told me that he had eye problems and he needed to go for eye surgery and that I should pray for him.

“I gave him some money as it is customary among friend to help each other.”

Mr. Nwobike told the court that he was innocent of the allegations of the EFCC.

“I have contributed to the law, I have no other job but litigation and practice. I have a lot of respect for the law and I have
been very generous to people.

“I am an employer of lawyers and I don’t pervert the course of justice and I will never pervert the course of justice,” he said.

Under cross-examination, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, confronted Nwobike with a text message he allegedly sent to a registrar of the Federal High Court to unduly influence one of the cases he was handling.

“You sent this text to one Mr. Jide of the Federal High Court, the text reads: ours should go to Justice Yinusa or Justice Aneke.

“The `ours’ in the text message was it a case that you filed?” Mr. Nwobike said: “I can’t say.”

Mr. Oyedepo alleged that the suit Mr. Nwobike allegedly tried to unduly influence was between AMCON V Delta Steel Company Ltd with suit no FHC/L/CS/127/2015.

“I put it to you then what you were seeking Jide to do was in not in exercise of his judicial function,” Mr. Oyedepo said.

Replying, Mr. Nwobike said: “Jide has no judicial function and the text was conversational as Jide has no power to assign cases.

“Mr Felix Deckon is our Senior Litigation Clerk, upon filing of the AMCON case, he sent the particulars of the case to me to
confirm which of the judges did the earlier one.

“Felix being my subordinate, speaks to me before sending texts and he called me on another line after sending that particular text.”

Mr. Oyedepo, however, disputed Nwobike’s claims about the timing of the text messages and asked: “Are you aware that your phones record your phone logs? Will you be surprised that Felix did not call you before sending the text?

“You received a text from Felix at 12.53 p.m. on February 12, 2015; at 12.56 p.m. you forwarded the particulars of the case to Mr. Jide of the Federal High Court.

“By 1.07 p.m. you sent a text message to Mr. Jide which reads: “The one Aribisala filed is before Justice Idris.’’

“You immediately forwarded the text message to him saying, “ours should go before Justice Yinusa or Justice Aneke, we need to do so today please,” Oyedepo said.

Justice Raliatu Adebiyi adjourned the case until July 4 for continuation of trial.

(NAN)


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  • Nkem

    I think somebody should write a book on how senior lawyers help to bury the parents and guardians of Nigerian judges.

    • Emeka

      And also how they have made so many opticians be in business!!

    • Lexis Juris

      @disqus_llPIQ7cNxP:disqus,

      Time to cancel the chieftaincy title of S.A.N

      Few exceptionally best lawyers in Nigeria
      will never apply to be demeaned and called S.A.N because S.A.N in public
      is a badge of disgrace often worn nowadays by morally dissolute creatures
      without gumption. The chieftaincy title of S.A.N has no meaning other than as
      an expletive – a word merely added to fill out a sentence describing intellectual
      retardation without adding to the sense.

      This lawyer in the witness box, Joseph Nwobike,
      is self-described as S.A.N, but where’s his thinking lobe? He offers a
      plenitude of excuses as alibi but fails to hold his narrative together with
      a reed of logic after being outed at cross-examination, as reported, as less
      than forthright, if he could not explain the meaning of the word ‘ours’ typed
      damningly in his text message to a judiciary officer.

      “Ours should go
      to Justice Yinusa or Justice Aneke,
      he’d typed in self-convicting
      damnation since no lawyer is permitted under the law to forum-shop or select
      the Judge of his case. But here is a self-described S.A.N; Joseph Nwobike, who’s
      struggling futilely to deny his salient attempt to corruptly influence or and select
      the Judge to decide his own filed case. If S.A.N chieftaincy title does not bespeak
      knowledge of law or betoken prudence of judgment, what does S.A.N title mean?

    • pheliciti

      And also provided health insurance…

    • persona

      Title of the book should be, “Problem Junction”. The content should revolve around the fact that, lawyers find a justice with problems, solve same with cash and then in return send their own problems and it gets resolved alike. The judicial officers are the traffic wardens at the said junctions.

  • persona

    If the lawyer says as is customary of friends to help out, what was he getting in return whilst spending heavily to service these friends?
    How come na judges family dey always peme and lawyers don’t get same support to “bury” their own family members or lawyers are configured to not have “family problems”?

  • idris

    How many times has the Justice “friends” contributed to the burial of the SAN’s relatives as it is customary with friends.

  • If I was a Judge or A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

    Mr Joseph Nwobike is a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a title reserved for those learned gentlemen who have accomplished their goals in dispensing justice and defending the rule of law. However in this case, J. Nwobike is standing trial on charges of offering gratification to some judges. The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr. Nwobike is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an 11-count charge bordering on perverting the course of justice and offering gratification to public officials. This is a tip of the iceberg. And in fact this shows the level decadence and helplessness facing our society today.
    The hurricane of corruption that is blowing through the Nigeria legal profession and our judiciary is frightening. In fact it is disturbingly enough to give a law abiding ordinary man and woman in this country some sleepless nights. Come to think about it; this is an Honourable profession that is supposed to defend and protect the fundamental rights of the oppressed, the helpless, the cheated, the defrauded, the abused, and the defenceless against all forms of brazen lawlessness and impunity. But most dreadfully, the Nigeria lawyers and distinguished judges out of greed for ill-gotten wealth have sadly become laws unto themselves. The judges have become brazenly corrupt. Some of our judges, aided and abated by some bent lawyers are feeding fat on the criminal proceeds of crime and colluding with criminals they are supposed to send behind bars. The ridiculous drama of endless adjournments of serious fraud cases has reduced Nigeria judiciary to a laughing stock. It is disgraceful. It is those in the league of these conscienceless Senior Advocates that are screaming thunder and brimstone recently when the operatives of EFCC cornered some 7 judges for alleged corruption. These shameless SANs are pointing accusing finger to the government for “bringing their profession into disrepute” – As if they have got any honour left to salvage? When the EFCC recently picked up one bent lawyer called Rickey Tarfa, another senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) and swiftly dragged him before a Lagos State High Court on a two-count charge of obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice with a long history of manipulating courts and improperly communicating with judges, over 90 “jobless” lawyers shamelessly followed him to the court as if that represented the best in the once revered legal profession and ethics? And as brashly and feckless as this alleged bent lawyer can be, he was talking of enforcing his “fundamental Human right” His odious fundamental right to pervert the course of justice? It is only in this dare-devil Nigeria that instead of a thief to be ashamed, the person who labours to apprehend him becomes the remorseful one!
    If I were one of these crooked Judges or bent (SANs) alleged by the EFCC to have corruptly enriched themselves, I will today do the most honourable thing left in my life- disrobe myself and quit the profession for good. After all, how would they ever administer justice again with the tainted shadow of corruption looming menacingly over their wigged head? In a more civilized polity where integrity, honour, honesty, morality and decency reigns supreme, the Bar Association wouldn’t flinch striking them off their register for bring disrepute and dragging their profession to the gutters. But obviously, this is never going to happen in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They have already rolled out their drum to defend them as if they are victims. If only the government can muster the courage to pursue the case to a logical conclusion, Nigerians will see that the alleged corrupt judges have failed short of their callings; and that this is just a tip of the iceberg. I am sure we still have some honest and morally upright judges in Nigeria who would be able to convict and send the not-so honourable men behind bars. It can only be good for the survival and redemption of the judiciary in Nigeria.