How A Senior Nigerian Lawyer Bribed Judges, Court Registrar
The ongoing trial of Joseph Nwobike, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court continued on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, with the prosecution further confronting him with text messages he sent to a court official in order to influence some of his cases before the court .
Mr. Nwobike is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on eleven-count charge of perverting justice and offering gratification to public officials.
At the resumed hearing, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, tendered a Compact Disc marked exhibit P21 containing text messages from Nwobike’s mobile phone to a court official.
In the CD, which was played on a projector mounted in the court room, Mr. Oyedepo told the court how Mr. Nwobike had sent text messages, at various times, to one Helen Ogunleye, a registrar with the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Mr. Oyedepo told the court that Mr. Nwobike admitted to have received and read a message from Ms. Ogunseye, whose name he saved as Mrs. Ogunleye Registrar, on December 16, 2013, saying, “Good morning sir, pls I couldn’t hear u cos of network sir (sic)”.
He also told the court that Mr. Nwobike, on the same date, sent a text to Ms. Ogunleye about a matter before Justice Kurya, saying, “FHC/L/CS/1521/2013 KNOX ENERGY LIMITED VS THE VESSEL MT ZOJA & 7 ORS”.
While cross-examining the defendant, the prosecution counsel told the court that Mr. Nwobike received and read a text from Ms. Ogunleye, saying, “We give u 6th Feb. Sir, but I need to inform my Lord (sic)”.
Mr. Nwobike was also said to have sent a text message to Ms. Ogunleye, saying, “Good afternoon, please the file is SIA SMART YN VS AR NIGERIA LTD 9962013″.
Although it indicated that the message was pending on his mobile phone, Ms. Ogunleye replied that the court was sitting and that she would check the file to know when the ruling would commence.
Mr. Nwobike also confirmed to have received and read a text message from Ms. Ogunleye, who wrote to inform him about her birthday, saying, ” Good morning sir, how was ur night just want to inform you that 2day is my birthday, thank for been there for me always u are the best (sic)”.
Mr. Oyedepo further told the court that Ms. Ogunleye, in appreciation of the gift sent to her by Mr. Nwobike, sent a message, saying, “Good morning sir, I really appreciate my birthday gift yesterday. God will coutinue to elevate u IJN Lord will preserve the going out and coming in IJN u are d best, this is my husband number 08035047945 Engineer Emmanuel Ogunleye.”
However, Mr. Nwobike told the court that he could not remember sending any gift to Ms. Ogunleye, except that he always sent gifts to her on her birthday.
Mr. Oyedepo told the court that Nwobike confirmed that he sent a text message to Ms. Ogunleye around 11:03 am on a certain day, saying, “Let oga discharge that order”, to which Ms. Ogunleye replied, around 11:12am of that same day that “We told oga last time u called me that u are in Abuja so & he said there should be a cogent reason from u b4 he can do that sir, just see him after Court session sir, this is confidential (sic)”.
Mr. Oyedepo told the court that when Ms. Ogunleye sent a text message to Mr. Nwobike reminding him about her brother who was offered admission to study Medicine in Russia, Mr. Nwobike replied that “I will see you this week”.
According to him, Mr. Nwobike, on April 2, 2014, received a message from Ms. Ogunleye, saying, “Thanks so much sir. God bless u, ur children will find favour of God in their entire endeavor IJN, u are d best. Kelani gave me the envelop in the morning (sic).”
Mr. Oyedepo stated that on November 20, 2015, Mr. Nwobike received a text from Ms. Ogunleye, saying, “Good morning sir, pls we are waiting for you sir, and pls don’t forget my younger brother I told you about his balance of school fees I should remind u today sir, God will reward u bountifully IJN.”
Mr. Nwobike, in his reply to the message, was said to have written that “My junior will ask for stand down. I will come at 11am”.
Mr. Nwobike was also said to have sent a text to one Ibeto on December, 15, 2014 around 8:32 am, saying “Good morning sir, I am planning to go to Port Harcourt tomorrow to sort out those judges. I have spoken to the AMCON people on how to secure our position even if some changes occur in the system.”
Mr. Nwobike also told the court that he once transferred the sum of N250, 000 to Ms. Ogunleye.
When asked if he was aware of the rules and regulations regarding professional conduct, Mr. Nwobike answered in the affirmative, adding that he had transactions with Ms. Ogunleye, but only had meetings with the judge.
Mr. Oyedepo tendered in evidence the Rules of Professional Conduct of Legal Practitioners 2007/ 2016 edition and Code of Conduct for Judicial officers.
He also told the court that Mr. Nwobike confessed to have paid the sum of N750, 000 into Justice Yinusa’s UBA account after he had a meeting with him over a pending case before him.
Mr. Oyedepo further told the court that Mr. Nwobike had about N64million in his account as at February 26, 2015 and N50 million in a fixed deposit account.
He also disclosed that Nwobike had more than N25million in another account for current expenditures.
In his response, Mr. Nwobike said the money he paid Justice Nganjiwa was to buy books to exercise his function as a judge of the Federal High Court.
Mr. Oyedepo told the court that apart from Justice Yinusa, Mr. Nwobike assisted Justice Fishim of Industrial Court in cash and gift and also paid the sum of N300, 000 to Justice Nganjiwa through his company account.
When Mr. Oyedepo asked if Mr. Nwobike knew one Debbie, he answered in the affirmative.
He told the court that Mr. Nwobike received a text from Debbie on July 24, 2015, saying, “It is done but will giv u details later” and another one that read: “He has granted all ur prayers.”
Justice Raliatu Adebiyi adjourned the case to September 12, 2017 for adoption of final written addresses.
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