June 23, 2024

Dr. Joseph Nwobike, SAN, has been handed a journey to the prison by an Ikeja High Court after been found guilty of bribing a Federal High Court judge, Justice Mohammed Yinusa.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria was dragged to court before Justice Raliat Adebiyi by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on an 18-count charge of bribery and offering gratification to court registrars at FHC Lagos.

Justice Adebiyi however discharged and acquitted Nwobike of 12 of the counts.

The judge, thereafter, sentenced Nwobike to one month in prison without an option of a fine. While delivering the judgement, the judge said: “The prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that by paying N750,000 into Justice Mohammed Yinusa’s account, the defendant perverted the course of justice.

“The EFCC was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt that Nwobike did intend to pervert the course of justice by having illicit conversations with the judge and the court registrars. “However, as a senior member of the bar, Nwobike acted contrary to the rules of professional engagement by engaging in ‘private’ conversations with the public officials. “I hereby find the defendant guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice.

It was discovered that text messages the EFCC retrieved from the defendant’s Samsung Mobile phone indicated that there were communications between the defendant, the judge and the court officials. “The defendant did communicate with one Mr. Jide, a senior court registrar specifically asking that his cases be assigned to specific judges, especially Justice Mohammed Yinusa. “Six out of the 11 cases were assigned to specific judges on request of the defendant to Jide.

“The said Jide may not be the administrative judge,he had ‘influence’ in the assigning of cases,” the judge ruled. Adebiyi, in her four-hour judgement, said she found the behaviour of the lawyer unbecoming of a senior member of the bar. The judge held that: “I hereby take cognizance of the fact that the defendant was motivated by success, and also that as a senior member of the bar, he should have known better. I also take cognizance of the fact that the defendant does not have any prior criminal record.

“In sentencing the defendant I also take notice of the defendant’s action in the fight against corruption. “The level of culpability of the defendant is very high. Not giving a custodial sentence would send wrong signals and will also do a lot of harm to the legal profession.

“This would serve as a deterrent sending a strong signal that no one is above the law. I hereby sentence you, Joseph Nwobike, to 30 days in prison for the 12 counts which would run concurrently.” Discharging Nwobike of the other six counts, the judge stated that EFCC could not prove the case of offering gratification to public officials. “It is clear that there was an exchange of monies between the defendant and the court officials, but the intent is, however, not known,” the court held.

The judge had said that on count one, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that N750,000 was paid by the SAN to influence an order given by Justice Yinusa of the Federal High Court. For count two, the judge had acquitted the SAN because the EFCC failed to prove that Helen Ogunleye performed the act for which N250,000 was given. In one of the text messages the EFCC tendered as exhibit before the court, Nwobike sent a text to Justice Musa Kurya’s registrar, Helen Ogunleye, which read, “tell Oga to discharge that order.” In another text message to Jide, Nwobike said, “please assign Lanre Olaolu Vs FRN to Justice Yinusa,” a directive which Jide carried out.

The EFCC said the advocate exchanged text messages with some judges of the Federal High Court, Lagos. It said Nwobike, on November 27, 2015, sent a text message “FHC/L/ CS/1799/15 between Godwin Nwekoyo and Inspector General of Police” to Justice Musa Kurya. EFCC said on October 8, 2015, Nwobike suggested in a text the assignment of Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1533/2015 between Mieka Dive Ltd. and 3 Ors V EFCC to Kurya. Earlier during proceedings, Nwobike’s counsel, Olawale Akonni (SAN), pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy. “The defendant is a family man with aged parents. He also has a law practice with several employees.

The defendant has also never had any infractions with the law, as he is a first time offender,” Akonni pleaded on behalf of Nwobike. Objecting, EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo asked the judge to send Nwobike to prison in order to send a strong signal to the public. Recall that the EFCC first arraigned Nwobike on five charges on March 9, 2016, which he pleaded not guilty to. Nwobike acted contrary to Section 97 (3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State No. 11, 2011.


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