- The EFCC accused Justice Nganjiwa of allegedly receiving a total of $260,000 and N8.65m through his bank account between 2013 and 2015
- The commission claims the accused acted contrary to Section 82(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos state, No. 11, 2011 as he could not give account for the source of the funds
- Justice Nganjiwa pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges and the trial judge adjourns the case till October 6 and 10
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday June 24, arraigned a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, before Justice A.A. Akintoye of the Lagos state High Court, Igbosere, on a 14 count charge of alleged unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000.
New Telegraph reports that Nganjiwa’s arraignment followed the dismissal of a preliminary objection he filed to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to try him.
According to the counsel for the accused, Robert Clarke, only the National Judicial Council (NJC) had the power to deal with the kind of allegations brought against the serving judge by the EFCC by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution.
However, the counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, contended that Nganjiwa had no immunity from criminal prosecution despite the fact that he was a serving judge.
According to the opposition counsel, “Section 308 of the constitution, which specified government officials who had immunity as the president, vice-president and state governors, did not include a serving judge.
“Despite the fact that Section 158 of the Constitution vested the National Judicial Commission, with administrative power to discipline an earring judicial for misconduct, the NJC did not have the power to look into criminal allegations against judges.”
Oyedepo further stated: “I therefore urge this court to dismiss the preliminary objection and order Justice Nganjiwa to proceed into the dock for his arraignment.”
Oyedepo’s argument was upheld by the trial judge Mrs. Akintoye in her ruling, as she dismissed Justice Nganjiwa’s preliminary objection.
The judge stated: “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.”
Nganjiwa pleaded not guilty to all 14 counts.
In the charges, the EFCC had accused Justice Nganjiwa of allegedly receiving a total of $260,000 and N8.65m through his bank account between 2013 and 2015 and unlawfully enriching himself as a public official.
The EFCC accused the judge of acting contrary to Section 82(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011 as the commission claimed Nganjiwa could not explain the source of the funds.
Justice Nganjiwa was also accused of giving false information to operatives of the EFCC, which, the prosecution said, amounted to an offence under Section 39(2) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2014.
Nganjiwa however denied all the allegations.
Following the arraignment, the trial judge was urged by the counsel for the defense, to admit his client to bail on self-recognizance being a serving judge.
But the EFCC counsel however pleaded with the court not to grant Nganjiwa bail on self-recognizance but to impose “serious conditions” that would compel his appearance in court for his trial.
Oyedepo argued: “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.”
However, Justice Akintoye agreed with the counsel for the defense and stated that in view of the fact that Nganjiwa was a serving judge, she was inclined to grant him bail on the basis of self-recognizance
The accused was however ordered by the trial 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.
Ngangiwa was directed to ensure he appeared in court for the entire duration of the trial.
Justice Akintoye adjourned till October 6 and 10 for commencement of trial.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, who was recently recalled from suspension by the National Judicial Council (NJC), has resumed sitting.
Ademola was suspended alongside other judges following allegations of corruption brought against them by the federal government.
The NJC in a statement on June 3 stated that Justice Ademola could resume his judicial duties on the basis that the court had exonerated him of the charges preferred against him by the federal government.
Watch this NAIJ.com TV video of EFCC officials staging walk against corruption