Senior Nigerian lawyer, judge make contradictory claims on alleged N5 million bribe

A senior lawyer who has worked for the anti-graft commission, EFCC, in the past has been questioned for allegedly giving a judge N5 million.

Godwin Obla, a former EFCC prosecutor, arrived the commission’s Lagos office on Tuesday afternoon, a source said.

Mr. Obla is being queried in relation to an allegation of the payment of N5 million to a Federal High Court judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, through a company in which the embattled judge has an interest.

The High Court judge had earlier told operatives during interrogation that the money was a part payment for a property she sold to the lawyer in Abuja for N40 million sometime in 2015.

But Mr. Obla’s statement to investigators on Tuesday contradicted the judge’s position.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria told investigators that the money was meant for buying of building materials (iron rods) for a building he was putting up in Abuja and not for buying of any property, a source at the commission said.

Mr. Obla explained that “in one of his trips to Lagos, he ran into the judge who had been a contemporary in university days and talk led to her acquainting him with where he can get very good building materials in Lagos.

“He said the judge gave him the name of someone who plies the trade. She provided the company’s name and the account number for the transaction. Obla said he paid the money and goods were supplied. When asked the name of the trader, receipt of transaction and delivery evidence of the goods, the learned silk said he could not remember the name of the trader or his location, neither was there any receipt or delivery note for the transaction,” the source said.

However, the account number the N5 million was paid into by the senior lawyer had been confirmed to be a company belonging to the female judge and her children. The registered company, not known to be engaged in building materials or any viable business, is suspected to have been set up for the purpose of warehousing proceeds of gratification.

The same company has been fingered in other illegal transactions including suspicious payments of sorts by some other persons.

Mr. Obla was still at the commission’s Lagos office on Tuesday evening and could be detained till Wednesday as he answers more questions from interrogators.

Mr. Obla’s interrogation is part of a larger crackdown on corruption in the judiciary by Nigeria’s anti-graft and security agencies.

Another senior lawyer, Muiz Banire, who was a legal adviser to Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress stepped down from his position after he admitted to investigators that he also gave money to a judge. He, however, denied any wrongdoing, saying the judge was a long term friend.

Tuesday’s interrogation also occurs less than a week after seven judges, including two from the Supreme Court, were suspended pending the conclusion of investigation of corruption cases against them.

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Ebuka Onyeji is a health reporter at PREMIUM TIMES. He also has a penchant for music and art. Ebuka holds a degree in Mass communication from Anambra State University.

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