The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has revealed that Justice Mohammed Yunusa, the embattled former Federal High Court, Lagos, admitted in his statement to the anti-graft agency that it was unethical receiving money from lawyers.
Newsmen report that the revelation was made on Tuesday during the testimony of Mr Moses Awolusi, an EFCC investigator, during Yunusa’s trial at an Ikeja Special Offences Court in Lagos.
NAN reports that the proceedings lasted from 12.30 pm till 5.18 pm.
Justice Yunusa is accused by the EFCC of collecting gratification from Mr Joseph Nwobike, a de-robed Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the law office of Mr Rickey Tarfa (SAN).
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Nwobike was convicted in April 31 of perverting the course of justice and has been stripped of his SAN.
Tarfa is being tried before Justice Aishat Opesanwo of an Ikeja High Court for allegedly having unlawful communication with judges and offering gratification to them.
Yunusa, in his EFCC statement to which was tendered to the court during Tuesday’s proceedings and read aloud by Awolusi, admitted collecting N750,000 for the purpose of paying for his ailing mother’s kidney dialysis.
The statement read in part: “I know it is unethical to accept money from counsel when he has a pending matter before the court.
“I have been shown my UBA account where I received N750,000 from Joseph Nwobike, I reached out to him as a personal friend.
“I shared my problems with him in the light of my mother’s diabetic condition which required dialysis.”
Awolusi, led in evidence by Mr Wahab Shittu, the lead EFCC prosecutor, told the court that investigations had further revealed that there was constant communication between the defendant and the two SANs.
He said: “Investigations on the defendant’s MTN line revealed that there was constant communication between the defendant and Rickey Tarfa (SAN).
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“We discovered that before certain matters being handled by the counsels were filed, there was constant communication between them as regards those matters.
“They even kept communicating even while the matter was going on even to the point of judgement.
“On March 19,2015, Dr Nwobike paid N750,000 into Yinusa’s UBA account and by Oct. 10 that same year, judgment was delivered in favour of Dr Nwobike in suit number FHC/L/ CS/1471/2015,” he said.
The EFCC investigator revealed that the anti-graft agency wrote to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate if he had violated the ethics of judicial officers.
“We wrote to the NJC to furnish us with information in relation to allegations, it was observed that the defendant violated the code of conduct by relating with counsels with pending matters before him.
“He was, therefore, recommended by the NJC for sanctions,” Awolusi said.
However, during cross-examination by Yunusa’s defence counsel, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), Awolusi admitted that he was unaware of the purpose of the money paid into the judge’s UBA account.
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He, however, reiterated that the EFCC investigated Yinusa based on the multiple communications he had with the SANs who had cases before him.
Justice Sherifat Solebo adjourned the case until Nov. 14 for continuation of trial.
NAN also reports that Yunusa is standing trial alongside Esther Agbo, a staff member of the law chambers of Mr Rickey Tarfa (SAN).
Yunusa is facing four-counts bordering on attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official, while Agbo is standing trial on a charge of offering gratification to a public official.
According to the EFCC, Yunusa had constant and confidential communications with Tarfa, who was handling three lawsuits marked FHC/L/CS/714/2015, FHC/L/CS/715/2015 and FHC/L/CS/716/2015 before him.
It also alleged that Yunusa collected N1.5 million bribe from Tarfa for the purpose of giving favourable rulings and judgments in the cases.
The judge is also being accused of receiving N750, 000 from Nwobike , between March 2015 and September, 2015, to get “favourable” judgment in some cases.
Agbo, the second defendant who is an employee of Rickey Tarfa and Co., on May 14, 2015 paid the N1.5 million allegedly from Tarfa into Yunusa’s UBA account no.1005055617.
The offences violated Sections 64(1)(a) and 97(3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.