A Special Offences Court sitting in the Ikeja area of Lagos has struck out the name of a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Yinusa from a 9-count charge of attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official.
In a bench ruling, Justice Sherifat Solebo held that in view of the exhibit tendered before the court showing that Justice Yinusa is still a sitting judge, he is immune from any criminal prosecution. She accordingly struck out his name from the charge and discharged him.
The EFCC had alleged that Justice Yinusa in 2015 had constant and confidential communications with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ricky Tarfa who was handling three lawsuits before him.
The Commission also alleged that the judge collected a N1.5 million bribe from Tarfa for the purpose of giving favourable rulings and judgments in the cases.
Justice Yinusa was also accused of receiving N750,000 from a former SAN, Mr Joseph Nwobike, between March 2015 and September, 2015, to get “favourable” judgment in some cases.
Justice Yinusa was facing these charges alongside the second defendant, Esther Agbo who is an employee of Rickey Tarfa and Co., and who on May 14, 2015 was accused of paying the N1.5 million allegedly received from Tarfa into Yunusa’s UBA account.
Both defendants were present in court today.
At the proceedings, Counsel to the 2nd defendant, Mr Olusegun Odubela SAN informed the court that the 1st Defendant’s counsel, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George SAN wrote to the National Judicial Council, NJC for a review of the report recommending Justice Yinusa’s suspension.
Mr Odubela SAN said, the NJC set up another committee to look into the recommendations upon which the 1st Defendant, Justice Yinusa was suspended.
At the NJC’s 93rd meeting held on 17th Dec, 2020, a report of the review committee was submitted and accepted based on which the NJC was said to have lifted the suspension of Justice Yinusa and asked him to return to work.
Mr Odubela SAN also informed trial judge, Justice Solebo that the NJC on 23rd of Dec. 2020 wrote to the chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho to convey its decision to lift the suspension of the 1st Defendant following which the CJ himself conveyed the information to Justice Yinusa via a letter written on the 11th of Jan. 2021.
This letter was tendered in court today and accepted as an exhibit with no objections from the EFCC Counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu.
With this development, and in the light of the court of appeal decision in the case of Nganjiwa Vs Fed.Republic of Nigeria, Mr Odubela SAN then applied to the court to strike out the name of Justice Yinusa from the charge before the court.
This led to an objection from the Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu who felt that the application was misplaced.
Justice Solebo in her ruling held that with the NJC letter lifting the suspension of Justice Yinusa, he is immune from prosecution.
The judge also agreed with the defence counsel, that there was a need for the EFCC to amend the charge against the second defendant, Esther Agbo.
The matter has been adjourned till tomorrow, 26th Jan. for an amendment of the charge, re-arraignment of the second defendant, and continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, the EFFC Counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu says the commission does not agree with the ruling and will be swiftly filing an appeal.
Mr. Shittu says that the Commission has called a number of witnesses and tendered several exhibits admitted in the proceedings in proof of its case against Justice Yinusa and the 2nd defendant.