The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday arraigned a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, for alleged unlawful enrichment of self to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000.
Justice Nganjiwa, who is attached to the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, was arraigned on 14 counts before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere.
His arraignment followed the dismissal of a preliminary objection he filed to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to try him.
Justice Nganjiwa’s lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke (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 against the serving judge by the EFCC.
But counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had, in opposition, contended that despite being a serving judge, Justice Nganjiwa had no immunity from criminal prosecution.
Oyedepo stressed that 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.
He also argued that though Section 158 of the Constitution vested the NJC with administrative power to discipline an erring judicial officer for misconduct, the NJC did not have the power to look into criminal allegations against judges.
Ruling, the presiding judge, Justice A.A. Akintoye, upheld Oyedepo’s argument and dismissed Justice Nganjiwa’s preliminary objection.
Justice Akintoye held, “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.”
Justice Akintoye said she was inclined to grant Justice Nganjiwa bail on self-recognisance in view of his status as a serving judge.
She 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 Justice Nganjiwa must make himself available in court throughout the entire length of his trial.
She adjourned till October 6 and 10, 2017 for commencement of trial.