Monday, June 26, 2017

EFCC Arraigns Serving Judge, Nganjiwa for Unlawful Enrichment

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned a serving judge attached to the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, over allegations of unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000.

He was docked on 14 counts before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on Friday following the dismissal of a preliminary objection he filed to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to try him.
The defence lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke SAN, had contended that by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution, only the National Judicial Council, NJC, had the power to deal with the kind of allegations which the anti-graft agency levelled against his client.

Countering the objection, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that despite being a serving judge, Justice Nganjiwa has no immunity from criminal prosecution, stressing that Section 308 of the constitution, which specified government officials who had immunity, did not include a serving judge.

According to TheWill,he also contended that though Section 158 of the Constitution vested the NJC with administrative power to discipline an erring judicial for misconduct, the body did not have the power to look into criminal allegations against judges.

Oyedepo then urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection and order Justice Nganjiwa to proceed into the dock for his arraignment.

The presiding judge, Justice A . A . Akintoye, in a ruling on Friday, upheld Oyedepo’s argument and struck out the preliminary objection filed by Justice Nganjiwa.

She ruled, “This court, having been properly constituted, has the power to try this case. The notice of preliminary objection, I hold, is therefore misconceived and same is hereby dismissed.”
The charges were then read to the defendant whe pleaded not guilty to all 14 counts. After the accused had taken his plea, Clarke urged Justice Akintoye to admit his client to bail on self-recognisance being a serving judge.

But Oyedepo pleaded that Justice Nganjiwa should not be granted bail on self-recognisance, but rather sought the imposition of “serious conditions” that would compel Justice Nganjiwa’s appearance in court for his trial.

“We never released him on bail on self-recognisance. I urge Your Lordship to impose serious conditions that will compel the

defendant’s appearance. We know what we went through before we got here.
“In view of the claim by the defendant that he’s a judge, what should be paramount is the expeditious trial of this case, so that he can know his fate,” the EFCC counsel argued. In a short ruling however, Justice Akintoye disclosed that she was inclined to grant Justice Nganjiwa bail on self-recognisance in view of his status as a serving judge.

She, however, directed the accused judge to deposit his passport in the custody of the Chief Registrar of the Lagos State High Court within seven days or that the EFCC should deposit same if the passport was still in its custody. Justice Akintoye stressed that the defendant must make himself available in court throughout the entire length of his trial.

She thereafter adjourned till October 6 and 10, 2017 for commencement of trial.