Awoyemi Kazeem, a Chief Accountant at the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Friday revealed at an Ikeja High Court the salaries and allowances of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia at her ongoing trial for alleged corruption and obstruction of justice.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr. Kazeem is the 11th prosecution witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to testify against Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Mr. Kazeem, in his evidence, revealed that Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, initially received a salary of N193,000 in 2004 on appointment as a judge which was increased to approximately N528,621 in 2008.
While being led in evidence by Rotimi Oyedepo, the prosecution counsel for the EFCC, Kazeem said: “I know Hon. Ofili-Ajumogobia very well, she is a honourable judge of the Federal High Court and she has been in the service of the court since 2004.
“In the course of her job, we have been paying her statutory allowances as sent to us by the National Judicial Commission (NJC) as well as other allowances as a judge of the Federal High Court.
“We forwarded to the EFCC documents containing details of her salary and allowances from the year 2004 to June 2017.
“From year 2004 to 2017, she earned a salary of N48.6 million and allowances of N74. 8 million.
“I will like to state that records of her allowances from 2004 to 2008 as well as her annual salary for 2008 could not be found due to the movement of the court from Lagos to Abuja in 2017.
“The total records of salary we have here is N123 million and this excludes the salaries that we could not present in court at the moment,” he told the court.
Mr. Kazeem, who looked through the salary records of the judge during his testimony, noted that some deposits in the judge’s salary account were not from the Federal High Court.
“The deposit of N1.8 million on June 15, 2004 from the records I have here are not from the Federal High Court.
“Another cash deposit of N1.8 million on Aug. 11, 2005 is not from the Federal High Court the records available to me, a N1 million Zenith Bank cheque deposit on Dec. 14, 2008 is not from the Federal High Court,” he said.
The accountant told the court that judges were allowed annual foreign trips for either medical checkup or training and were given 6,900 dollars annually either for airfare or estacode.
“The $6,900 was paid in cash to the judges, I, however, did not check if my Lady took advantage of it because it is not reflected in our records,” Mr. Kazeem said.
While being cross-examined by Robert Clarke, counsel to Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, Mr. Kazeem admitted that his knowledge of the judge was restricted to her financial records and he was not aware of the purpose of the deposits which were not from the Federal High Court.
Mr. Clarke also noted that the before becoming a judge, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia was a lawyer with a thriving practice and had a ‘pedigree’ by virtue of her father being a retired High Court judge.
During the trial another witness, Lawal Abdullahi, narrated to the court how the embattled judge made a failed attempt to evade investigators of the anti-graft agency by falsely claiming that she was in admitted in hospital.
“On Oct. 19, 2016 at 7.16 p.m, I put a call to her that we have been expecting her since the previous day, she said she was aware but she was sick and was on admission at Goldcross Hospital located at 17b, Bourdillion Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
“She asked if I will be coming there and I said no but after about 30 minutes, I and about three other operatives drove down to the hospital.
“I personally met the receptionist and I informed her that I was there to visit Hon. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and her reply was that ‘we are expecting her’.
“I asked her if she means that the judge is not at the hospital, she told me that she just received a call from her boss that the Ofili-Ajumogobia will soon be at the hospital.
“We enquired and got the list of all the patients that were on admission that day as well as the previous night and her name was missing on the list.
“I put a call to her and I asked her which hospital she was referring to and she said Goldcross Hospital on Bourdillon Road I then told her ‘Ma, we are there and you are not here’, she said ‘oh you are there?’ and she hung up the phone.”
The EFCC investigator, in his testimony, alleged that the judge was smuggled into the hospital at 11.30 p.m. through a back entrance by staff in connivance with the medical director of the hospital, Dr. Solanke.
“She claimed that she had been in the hospital all along and because of that false claim, we placed security guards in her room until she was discharged.
“She eventually honoured our invitation the next day which was October 20, she came around 4pm to our office.
“When she came we confronted her with what we had already based on the investigation we had conducted.
“We discovered that there were a lot of inflows or cash deposits from various individuals, state governments, organizations among others which looked suspicious.
“She volunteered a statement on Oct. 21, 2016 and she gave several statements on other days which were made with her lawyer present,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial alongside Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former prosecutor of the EFCC.
Both have been jointly charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Mr. Obla is facing an additional two counts of offering gratification in the sum of N5 million to Ofili-Ajumogobia, a public official while serving as a judge.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia faces a 26-count charge bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC.
Both denied all the charges.
Justice Hakeem Oshodi adjourned the case until Oct. 27 for continuation of trial. (NAN)