The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the dismissal of Justices R. N. Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court and James T. Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The sanction followed findings on alleged misconduct contained in a petition by the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
In the petition, Magu alleged Ofili-Ajumogobia was a director/chief executive officer and sole signatory to Nigel and Colive Company, contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The petition also noted that individuals, government officials and business partners lodged funds into various accounts belonging to the judge and that there was an ex-parte communication between the judge and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Godwin Obla, during the pendency of his matter before the judge.
The council could not consider other allegations in the petition because they were “already before a court where the judge is standing trial,” notes a statement signed yesterday by NJC’s Director of Information NJC Soji Oye.
Agbadu-Fishim’s sack was recommended after findings on allegations contained in another petition by the EFCC boss.
The judge was said to have received various sums of money from litigants and lawyers that had cases before him and from influential Nigerians under the false pretense that he was bereaved or had delay in the payment of his salary.
“In the interim, the council, in exercise of its disciplinary powers under paragraph 21 (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has suspended the judges with immediate effect, pending their removal from office by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The council equally rejected the letter of voluntary retirement submitted by Justice Joshua E. Ikede of the Delta State High Court, purported to be with effect from October 1.
“This followed findings on an allegation of falsification of age contained in a petition written by the national coordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre. T
he council found that the judge ought to have retired since October 2016.
“Consequently, the council backdated his retirement to 2016 and asked the government of Delta State to deduct from his retirement benefits all salaries received from October 2016 till date and remit them to NJC, which pays salaries of all judicial officers in the federation.”
Also, Obla has reacted to an invitation extended to him by the EFCC in connection with an alleged default in tax payment.
In a letter written by his lawyer, Dr. Joshua Musa (SAN) and dated October 2, 2018, he argued that it was contemptuous of the EFCC to invite him when the matter was already before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He cited an order restraining the EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) from further action pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court granted the order on July 25, 2018, which was extended on August 9, staying further administrative action, he maintained.
In a related development, a High Court in Port Harcourt awarded N600 million in exemplary damages against the EFCC for declaring two Rivers State officials wanted over an alleged N117 billion illicit transaction.
The officers, Rivers State Accountant General Frederick Abere and a retired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government Affairs Lekia Bukpo, had filed a violation of fundamental human rights suit against the anti-graft agency.
The presiding judge, Justice George Omereji, berated the EFCC, affirming it has no constitutional right to investigate the finances of the state government or its officials.
He said the agency erred by declaring the officials wanted and described the action as embarrassing, coming especially after the agency failed to appeal a 2007 judgment that ruled it lacks power to probe the state’s finances.
Omereji charged the EFCC to first vacate the subsisting order made by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court before taking any action on the accounts of the state.
When The Guardian contacted EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, he claimed he was not aware of the judgment.