A judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa recently reinstated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) was on Friday arraigned in court over allegation of enriching himself unlawfully to the tune of $260,000 and N8, 650,000.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 14 counts before the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere.
Nganjiwa, had earlier through his lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), filed a preliminary objection, contending 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 him by the EFCC.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, opposing the objection argued, that Justice Nganjiwa had no immunity from criminal prosecution, adding 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.
The presiding judge, Justice A.A. Akintoye, upheld the argument of the EFCC counsel and in his ruling on Friday said, “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.”
Consequently upon the dismissal of Nganjiwa’s objection, charges against him were read out to him but he pleaded not guilty to all the 14 counts.
The EFCC had in the charges alleged that he unlawfully enriched himself regardless of being a public official by receiving a total of $260,000 and N8.65m through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.
The EFCC also said that the judge failed to tell the source of the funds and that he acted in negation to Section 82(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No. 11, 2011.
EFCC among other allegations, said Justice Nganjiwa, gave false information to operatives of the EFCC, which according to the commission, was tantamount to offence under Section 39(2) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2014.
However, Nganjiwa denied all the allegations.
He was subsequently granted bail by Justice Akintoye on self-recognisance in view of his status as a serving judge.
Nganjiwa, was among the judges whose homes were raided last year by the Department of State Security (DSS) but was yet to be charged to court about eight months after the raid.
But EFCC leveled the 14 counts on Nganjiwa soon after he was reinstated by the NJC along five other judges including Justice Adeniyi Ademola, whose victory at the Federal High Court has been appealed by the Federal Government.