Embattled senior lawyer, Mr. Ricky Tarfa, SAN, on Friday admitted paying N225,000 into the account of a Federal High Court judge in 2014.
He, however, said that the money was his own contribution towards the burial of the judge’s father and not bribe as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria had filed a fundamental right suit against the EFCC over his alleged arrest and detention.
The EFCC had on Friday, February 5 arrested Mr. Tarfa in the premises of a Lagos High Court for allegedly hiding two suspects – Nazaire Sorou Gnanhoue and Modeste Finagnon, both Beninese – in his Mercedes Benz Sports Utility Vehicle, thereby shielding them from being arrested and willfully obstructing the course of justice.
He was subsequently arraigned on a two-count charge bordering on obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
In response to the suit, EFCC filed preliminary objection on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
A respondent to the suit, who is also an operative of the EFCC, Moses Awolusi, stated in counter-affidavit that a check carried out into the Access Bank account of Tarfa’s law firm revealed that a sum of N225,000 was sent to Justice Mohammed Yunusa on January 7, 2014 which it believed was bribe.
“I know from the facts revealed during investigation that the said bribe of N225,000 was accepted and acknowledged by Justice Yunusa in a text message to the applicant, wherein he said, ‘Thank you my senior advocate’.
“I also know that an investigation has revealed that the applicant’s law firm was in the habit of asking the Chief Registrar of the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to assign his cases before His Lordship, Honourable Justice M.N. Yunusa in furtherance of the understanding between the applicant and the particular judge”, the operative said in the affidavit.
But Tarfa, in a further affidavit, which was a response and deposed to by the head of his chambers, John Olusegun Odubela, denied the allegation.
Odubela, however, admitted that his principal gave the judge money, but insisted that it was not bribe.
He averred that the money in question was a donation from committee of friends of the judge including him, to support Justice Yunusa during the burial of his late father in Maiduguri, Borno State, since they could not be there in person.
Odubela further stated that Mr. Tarfa was not informed upon his arrest and detention on February 5, by EFCC that he was arrested on the allegation of bribing the judge.
According to him, the anti-graft agency’s claim that the judge acknowledged receipt of the alleged bribe by a text message which reads ‘Thanks my senior advocate’, was white lies.
After listing to the both parties, Justice Mohammed Idris adjourned the matter till February 29, for Judgment.