Judiciary
A’court quashes corruption charges against Justice Nganjiwa

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has struck out the corruption charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa.

The EFCC had arraigned the judge for allegedly receiving a total of $260,000 and N8.65m gratification to unlawfully enrich himself as a public official.

The anti-graft agency arraigned the judge on 14 counts before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on June 23, 2017.

The judge pleaded not guilty and trial commenced before Justice Adedayo Akintoye.

However, in a judgment on Monday, an appellate court panel presided over by Justice Adejumo Obaseki quashed the 14 charges pressed against Justice Nginjiwa.

The Appeal Court’s ruling followed an appeal filed by Justice Nganjiwa, through his lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), challenging Justice Akintoye’s jurisdiction to entertain the charges.

Prior to Justice Nganjiwa’s arraignment on June 23, Clarke had argued a preliminary objection challenging Justice Akintoye’s jurisdiction to hear the case.

The SAN had contended that by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution, only the National Judicial Council had the power to deal with the kind of allegations brought by the EFCC against his client, a serving judge.

But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, disagreed and maintained that despite being a serving judge, Justice Nganjiwa did not have immunity against criminal prosecution.

“We must be bold enough to concede that the NJC has administrative power in the appointment and administrative discipline of a judicial officer; but Section 158 of the Constitution did not clothe the applicant with immunity from criminal trial,” Oyedepo had argued.

In her ruling, Justice Akintoye upheld Oyedepo’s argument and dismissed Justice Nganjiwa’s objection.

Displeased, the judge, through Clarke, appealed the decision, which gave rise to the Monday decision by the Court of Appeal.

The appellate court agreed with Clarke that a judge could not be prosecuted until such judge had either been dismissed or compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council.

The court upheld Clarke’s argument that the case should have been referred to the NJC.

In the charges, the EFCC accused Justice Nganjiwa of unlawfully enriching himself as a public official by allegedly receiving a total of $260,000 and N8.65m through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.

Oladimeji Ramon

The Punch

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