Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Federal Government has preferred fresh charges against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja and his wife, Olabowale, who is the Head of Service of Lagos State, before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja.
The prosecution amended the charges it filed on December 1, 2016 bringing the original 14 counts down to 11.
While some of the old counts have been dropped, fresh ones including receiving a car worth N8.5m as gratification from a senior lawyer, Mr. Joe Agi, and being in possession of two rifles without valid licences have been preferred against the judge.
The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, on Monday, fixed December 13, 2016 for the arraignment of the defendants.
Like the old set of charges, Justice Ademola and his wife were accused in the fresh counts of conspiracy and receiving gratification of N30m from Joe Agi and Associates between March 11 and March 26, 2015.
The prosecution also accused the judge of “dealing with property subject matter of an offence” by transferring N85m and N90m, totalling N175m to Franco Dan Parker on February 24, 2014.
Both offences were said to be contrary to section 24 of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000 and punishable under the same law.
The judge was also accused of attempting to receive gratification in the sum of N25m from one Sani Shaibu Teidi on February 21, 2014.
He was also said to have, on January 5, 2015, in his capacity as a public servant, “corruptly received from Joe Odey Agi, a BMW Saloon 320i valued at N8,500,000, through your son, Ademide Ademola, as gratification in the exercise of your official functions as the judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria”.
The offences relating to gratification were said to be contrary to section 8(1) (a) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000.
The judge was also said to have, on October 7, 2016, had in his possession “one Pump Action Rifle with serial number AVAR MAGNUM 6084 without a valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, 2004”.
He was said to have, on the same date of October 7, 2016, had in his possession another Pump Action Rifle with serial number AVAR MAGNUM 6284 without a valid licence.
In the last count, he was accused of having in his possession on the same date of October 7, 2014, “35 rounds of live ammunition (cartridges) without a valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, 2004”.
The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned on Monday but they were absent because they had not been served with the charges.
Justice Okeke adjourned the matter till December 13, 2016, after the defendants’ lawyer, Mr. Jeph Njikonye, volunteered to accept service on behalf of his clients.
Lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Segun Jegede, had told the court that bailiffs attempted to serve the couple with the charges but they were said to have travelled to Lagos.
He said he was going to ask the court to give an order for service on the defendants through substituted means but that was no longer necessary as the defence counsel had approached him before the proceedings commenced and volunteered to accept service on behalf of the defendants.
Jegede urged the court to grant leave to serve the defendants through their lawyer on the strength of section 382(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Although Njikonye expressed readiness to accept service on behalf of his clients, he said was not aware of attempts to serve the couple personally and, as such, section 382(5) of the ACJA was not applicable in the matter.
The defence lawyer, however, submitted that the court under its inherent powers could grant the leave for service.
Justice Okeke, in his ruling, said record showed that a court bailiff attempted to serve the defendants in Abuja, on December 2, but were said to have travelled to Lagos.
He proceeded to grant leave enabling the defendants to be served through their lawyer as provided for under section 382(5) of ACJA.
Earlier, the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Umar, announced that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had authorised Jegede to lead the prosecution team.
The DPPF said, “The Attorney General of the Federation, in exercise of his power under section 174 of the constitution and section 104(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, has authorised Mr. Segun Jegede to lead the prosecution of this case.”
Jegede is a former prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
According to online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, Jegede worked at the UNICTR for over a decade.
His work at the UNICTR “mainly revolved around the investigation and prosecution of some of the known masterminds of the egregious crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide”.
The Rwandan genocide, which lasted about 100 days in 1994, was a mass slaughter of the Tutsi ethnic minority group in Rwanda by the Hutu ethnic majority group.
Jegede was also said to have had a stint at the Federal Ministry of Justice as a state counsel before going into private legal practice and subsequently establishing his own law firm in 1988.
Upon taking over the case from the DPPF on Monday, Jegede announced that he was going to withdraw the old charges filed on November 14, 2016, and replace them with the set filed on December 1, 2016.
Justice Okeke granted the prayer and struck out the old charges filed on December 1.