Justice Ngwuta earns N24m annually, spent N500m in 10 months – AGF

The Federal Government on Wednesday said investigations had shown that a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, spent over N500m between January and October 2016 despite his total annual legitimate earnings, including his allowances being N24m.

This was disclosed in a document prepared by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, summarising the case of the prosecution against the Justice of the Supreme Court, who was on November 21, 2016, arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja.

During his arraignment, Ngwuta pleaded not guilty to 16 counts, including money laundering and others relating to fraudulent obtainment of multiple passports.

The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, adjourned till January 16, 2017, for the prosecution to start calling its witnesses.

The document, prepared in anticipation that the prosecution would be allowed to open its case on Wednesday, stated that the case brought against the judge, “chronicles corrupt enrichment, violations of the money laundering laws of our land, passport fraud, and an attempt to obstruct justice by a judicial officer”.

The prosecution alleged that from the N500m, the apex court justice transferred dollar equivalent of N313m cash in $100 bills to a building contractor within the period of nine months between January and September, 2016, to “develop several landed properties” for him.

It explained that earlier in 2015, the defendant, within a period of one month, made various cash payments totalling $180,000 to the building contractor.

It also alleged that during the raid on the defendant’s Abuja house by the operatives of the Department of State Services on October 7, 2016, total sums of N38.358m, $319,596 and £25,915 were found in his possession.

According to the prosecution, the Justice of the apex court gave no satisfactory explanation for the huge sums of money found in his possession.

Prosecutor’s document

The document partly read, “Another witness will testify before this court that the defendant’s total annual income, including allowances in 2016 amounted to approximately N24,000,000.

“It beggars belief how a serving public servant could have under his direct control, in a 10-month period spanning between January and October alone, cash sums in excess of N500,000,000.”

Adeogun-Philips said proposed prosecution witnesses would also appear in court to testify over the huge funds found in possession of the defendant, among other allegations.

The document stated, “In the course of this trial, the Federal Republic of Nigeria will adduce evidence from a building contractor engaged by the defendant, as to how in a period of nine months, spanning between January and September 2016, he received the total sum of N313,000,000 from the defendant in cash, which was paid to him mostly in $100 bills to develop landed properties for the defendant.

“This court will also hear from another witness, how in his capacity as an architect engaged by the defendant in 2015, he received from the defendant within a period of one month, various cash payments totalling $180,000.

“Investigators will further tell this honourable court how during a search at his residence on October 7, 2016, cash totalling: (1) N35,358,000 (2) $319,956 and £25,915 were found in the defendant’s possession.”

The prosecution alleged that the defendant had betrayed “the judicial oath of allegiance to discharge his duties as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, faithfully, with honesty, and to the best of his abilities”, which he swore to on June 23, 2011 when he was promoted to the Supreme Court bench.

The prosecuting lawyer also stated that he would lead evidence on how the defendant, on October 9, 2016, a day after being granted administrative bail by the DSS in Abuja, prevailed on a potential prosecution witness on the telephone to help him to move some bags containing title documents of landed assets and N27m cash away from his house in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.

Adeogun-Philips stated, “The court will, in the course of this trial, hear how the defendant, having been confronted with the maze of evidence against him, following the search of his official residence in Abuja and his subsequent arrest on October 7, 2016, and oblivious of being under DSS surveillance, prevailed on a potential prosecution witness following his release on administrative bail on October 9, 2016, to remove from his bathroom at his private residence in Ebonyi State several bags containing several land title documents and the sum of N27m cash.

“The evidence will also reveal how the defendant ordered the same witness to remove three luxury vehicles from his residence following which the said vehicles were subsequently concealed at various locations in Ebonyi State in an attempt to obstruct ongoing investigations in this case.”

He also said the evidence to be led by the prosecution would reveal “how the defendant, deliberately misled the Nigeria Immigration Service into issuing him four valid passports – two diplomatic and two standard Nigerian passports – having previously declared to the said service on oath that he had lost two of these passports”.

“The defendant was later found with all four passports during a search at his residence on October 7, 2016,” the prosecution stated.

Adeogun-Philips added, “It is for these reasons that the defendant is standing trial before this honourable court today. By the end of this trial, I am confident that the prosecution would have established beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is indeed guilty of the offences charged.”

The prosecution was scheduled to call its first set of witnesses against Justice Ngwuta on Wednesday, but the defendant, through his lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), begged the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, to further adjourn the case to afford him (Ngwuta) more time to prepare for his defence.

He said his client was eager to defend himself, “But unfortunately we still have a lot to do to be sufficiently ready.”

He cited section 36(6) of the constitution which he said entitled any person accused of criminal offences to be given the “time and facilities” to defend himself.

He said, “There are some documents we still need to access from the prosecution. Under our constitution the defendant should be given enough time.

“I urge your lordship to direct the prosecution to avail us of all the documents they intend to use so that we can be fully prepared.”

Prosecutor opposes adjournment

But Adeogun-Philips, who said a lot of resources had been expended to bring three of the prosecution witnesses to court on Wednesday, opposed the application for adjournment.

He opposed the application on the grounds that both parties had on November 21, after the arraignment of the defendant, consented to the commencement of the trial on Wednesday.

Insisting that all the documents the prosecution would use had been front-loaded and served on the defendant along with the charges, he added that the  application for adjournment also violated section 396(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, “which provides for day-to-day trial upon arraignment until the conclusion of trial.”

He also said the adjournment would also violate the provisions of the court’s Practice Direction 2013.

He suggested that if the court was willing to grant the adjournment, the prosecution should be allowed to call its witness and give the defence another date to cross-examine the witness.

Defence lawyer seeks adjournment

Responding on point of law, Agabi said day-to-day trial was impracticable and that under section 396(4) of ACJA, the defendant was entitled to seek adjournment five times throughout the period of the trial in the event of the impracticability of day-to-day trial.

But ruling, Justice Tsoho agreed with the defence lawyer on the grounds that the provision of the constitution overrides the provision of the ACJA.

He said that the time and facilities which the provision of Section 36(6) of the constitution provides must be afforded the accused person which could extend to “emotional and psychological” readiness.

Five witnesses to testify against Justice Ngwuta

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, who is facing 16-count charge bordering on money laundering, age falsification and alleged illegal possession of multiple international passports, Wednesday, told a Federal High Court in Abuja that he was not ready for trial.

Ngwuta, who was docked before the high court on November 21 and subsequently granted bail to the tune of N100 million, pleaded for an adjournment to enable him adequately prepare his defence to allegations the Federal Government levelled against him.

The embattled jurist made the application on a day the prosecution, led by a former attorney at the International Criminal Court of Justice, ICC, Charles Adeogun-Philips, disclosed that three witnesses were in court to enter evidence against him. “My lord, we are ready to open our case today. Our witnesses are in court and we have all our arsenals ready,” the prosecution told the court.

However, Ngwuta’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, who was formerly an Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, insisted that his client would need more time and facilities to prepare for his defence.

“My lord, we are anxious for this matter to commence so that we will know our fate. However, we will be pleading with your lordship to grant us an adjournment so that we can be fully prepared. We have so many documents yet to access. Under the constitution, the defendant requires adequate time to prepare for his defence. The matter cannot even go on tomorrow as earlier stated, because we still have a lot of work to do.”

He also prayed the court to direct the prosecution to furnish him with all the documents he intends to adduce in the course of the trial. “My lord, you heard the prosecution describe it as an arsenal. We became afraid when he made that statement”, Agabi stated.

The prosecution counsel, however, urged the court to refuse the adjournment request and okay the matter for immediate trial. “My lord, I am terribly astonished by my friend’s application this morning. This matter was fixed by consent of parties on November 21. May I also draw your lordship’s attention to Section 396(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, which makes provision for day-to-day trial of the defendant.

“Also bearing in mind that the front loading procedure of this court requires that all evidence must be adduced before hand and also served on the defence. There is nothing materially different to warrant an adjournment. So I will be asking my lord to reject the application.

“I also want to refer my lord to the practice direction of this court. My lord, this is indeed a high profile trial and there is need for expediency,” Adeogun-Philips submitted.

He further decried the fact that a great amount of resources was expended to bring the three witnesses to court for the trial to commence and urged the court to allow the prosecution to open its case and then adjourn to enable the defence to cross-examine the witnesses later.

Nevertheless, Agabi, SAN, pointed out that under the ACJA, his client was entitled to five adjournment requests. “I appreciate the sacrifices made by the prosecution. But it is a sacrifice made in the interest of justice. We have to come prepared. May I refer your lordship to Section 396 (4) of the ACJA. It said where day-to-day trial is practicable, we are entitled to five adjournments, but after today, we won’t ask for another.

“Let us also not overlook provisions of the constitution in section 36(6) which allows for adequate time and facilities to be given to anyone charged to court to prepare his defence. The State is supposed to give us facilities. The application is made in good faith.”

The prosecution immediately countered him, saying: “My lord, the right that accrues to the accused is to prepare his defence. Section 396(4) of ACJA only made reference to when day-to-day trial is impracticable. They have not demonstrated that to this court. So I do not really see why my friend on the other side does not want this case to go on today.”

In a bench ruling, trial Justice John Tsoho noted that section 396(4) of the ACJA indeed made provision for a maximum adjournment of five times. The judge stressed that section 36(6) of the 1999 constitution which allows a defence to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence, has a wider scope, saying it also encompasses the mental preparedness of an accused to stand trial.

“Viewed towards this perspective, this court is inclined to grant the request of the defence counsel,” Justice Tsoho held, noting that it was the first indulgence sought by the defendant. He further held that section 36 of the Constitution overrides the provision of section 396 of the ACJA.

The matter was eventually adjourned till January 18 and 23, 2017, for trial. FG had earlier opposed Ngwuta’s release on bail, stressing that he has the capacity to interfere with some of the witnesses billed to testify against him before the court.

The government told the court that shortly after Ngwuta was granted administrative bail by the DSS, he quickly called one of the proposed witnesses to help him conceal some of the evidence against him, including N27 million he hid in his bathroom at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State.

In a 29-paragraphed counter-affidavit deposed to by one Ganau Noma Wando, FG further told the court that barely 20 minutes after Justice Ngwuta was released from DSS custody, he called one of the key witnesses, Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, to go to his house in Abakaliki and dispose the money and cars there.

“The first instruction was ‘Go and get rid of those cars.’ The second instruction was ‘go into my bathroom at my residence where you will find two or three bags, get rid of them immediately.’ “If the witness had got into the bathroom and found bags stuffed with newspapers, we won’t be raising this objection today. But the bags contained N27m which they removed from the defendant’s residence to another place. We could not even find it again.”

The prosecution also told the court that the defendant equally removed three exotic cars from his residence in his home town. “As at October 9, the defendant was already aware that he was subject of investigation by the DSS. In fact, he had been in their custody for two nights and was interviewed for that 48 hours. He was aware that the subject matter of the items removed from his residence at Abakaliki would have been of interest to this investigation. This has put me in a very difficult situation, so much so that the defendant is charged with interference in count three.

“In count 10- 16 in the charges, the defendant was alleged to have maintained multiple identities. My lord, in any jurisdiction in the world, if a person is found to have multiple identities, I cannot but object to his release on self recognition or being released at all. On October 8, a day before the call was made to Abakaliki, the defendant was found with four valid passports. Two of them were diplomatic passports while two were standard passports.

“Now we are confronted with such acts of dishonesty, with offences committed whilst in administrative bail. “It is not enough that he was found with four passports, but the NIS confirmed that he was using the passports concurrently and interchangeably. We only found four, there might be others. How do we know? When we searched his residence in Abuja, we didn’t know there was N27m in his bathroom at his private residence located at Engineering Close, Off Onwe Road, Abakaliki Ebonyi State,” the prosecution counsel added.

He told the court that the witness, Nwamba, initially hid the bag that contained the N27m cash at the residence of one Abraham Ezeani in Abakaliki, saying the money “was subsequently dissipated by Mr Nwamba on the direct instructions of the defendant/applicant.” It listed the three exotic cars that Ngwuta allegedly attempted to conceal, as a Hummer Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle, Wrangler Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle and a BMW 5 Series Sedan Vehicle which it said was quickly moved by the defendant to Clevero Hotel in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.

FG said the properties which it maintained were derived from the proceeds of an unlawful act, were all subsequently recovered by investigators on November 11, following Nwamba’s arrest, weeks after the defendant had been released on administrative bail.

“That the sheer amount of raw cash either found on and/or concealed by the Defendant/Applicant following his arrest by the DSS, is indicative of the fact that he is a man of immense financial means and is sufficient ground for believing that if released on bail, he possesses the material ability to abscond and consequently not surrender himself for trial.

“That in view of the foregoing, despite his position as a serving Justice of the Supreme Court bench, it cannot be said that the Defendant/Applicant conduct as outlined above, is that of a law abiding Nigerian citizen who will surrender himself to the court for trial”, FG argued.

Nevertheless, in his ruling, Justice Tsoho noted that despite allegations FG raised against Ngwuta in the counter-affidavit, it still did not revoke the administrative bail it previously gave the defendant through the DSS.

He said there was room for such bail to be revoked once the person it was granted to was seen to have breached it in anyway. Besides, the Judge said it was no longer secret that security agencies have been monitoring the defendant since the day he was released from custody. He held that the objection by the prosecution was founded on theories of what the defendant would likely do if granted bail, saying he was of the view that the FG has the security apparatus to circumvent whatever action the defendant could take to scuttle his trial.

“Consequently, this court is minded to grant the defendant bail in the sum of N100m on his personal recognition having regard to his status as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria”, Justice Tsoho held. The sting operation It will be recalled that Justice Ngwuta was among seven superior court judges that were arrested between October 7 and 8, after the DSS raided their homes in what it termed “a sting operation”.

He was in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/C/232, and signed by a Principal State Counsel, Hajara H. Yusuf, alleged to have among other offences, stashed foreign currencies in his Abuja home. FG said the DSS, at the end of the search operation conducted at Ngwuta’s official residence, recovered several sums of cash, including the sum of Thirsty Five Million, Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight Thousand Naira (NGN35,358,000.00); Three Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety- Six United States Dollars ($319,596.00). Also recovered were Twenty-Five Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifteen Pounds Sterling (GBP 25,915) and Two Hundred and Eighty Euros (EURO 280.00).

It said the search also revealed about four Diplomatic passports, one official and two standard Nigerian passports all in the name of the defendant. FG told the court that the DSS executed a search warrant at Justice Ngwuta’s home on October 8, following series of allegations of corruption that were levelled against him.

Documents revealed that FG has lined-up five witnesses that will testify against Ngwuta. The witnesses are Aminu N Ibrahim, who is to testify on the search conducted on the defendant’s residence on or about 7/8 October, Ngo Awoikiega, who will testify on the investigation/ interrogation of the Defendant.

Others are Tanko Nuhu Kutana, an Immigration Officer who will testify on the multiple Diplomatic and Standard Nigerian Passports obtained by the Defendant. Ogudu Nwadire will tell the court how as an Architect to the defendant between 2014 and 2016, he handled several projects for which he received cash payments totalling $100,000.00. While Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka will testify on how as a building contractor to the defendant between 2014 and 2016, he handled several projects for which he received cash payments from the Defendant totalling $1,000,000.00. The DSS official responsible for the investigation of the case, Bamai Abu Nehemiah, had deposed an affidavit of completion of investigation into the matter.

According to him, “That I was informed by Hajara H. Yusuf, a Principal State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation at her office at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, FCT, on Monday, 18th day of October, 2016 at about 12 noon that it is the opinion of the Department of Public Prosecution that the investigations conducted in this case has so far revealed a prima facie case against the Defendant”.

Buhari, SSS acted right on raid, arrest of judges – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has backed the State Security Services’ invasion of the homes of some Nigerian judges last month, saying the action was necessary to cleanse the judiciary.

Delivering a speech at the First Akintola Williams annual lecture in Lagos Wednesday, Mr. Obasanjo saluted the executive branch’s “necessary wisdom and courage to clean the dirty stable of the Judiciary.”

“Three weeks before the first three judges were arrested for corruption, I was talking to a fairly senior retired public officer who put things this way, ‘The Judiciary is gone, the National Assembly is gone, the military is sunk and the civil service was gone before them; God save Nigeria.’ I said a loud Amen,” Mr. Obasanjo said in the speech titled ‘Nigeria Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Governance and Accountability.’

“Three weeks later, the process of saving the Judiciary began. And if what I have gathered is anything to go by, there may be not less than two score of judicial officers that may have questions to answer. That will be salutary for the Judiciary and for the Nation.”

An overnight assault, in early October, on some senior judges in six states across the country by the SSS resulted in the arrest of some of the judges.

Officials of the SSS told PREMIUM TIMES at the time that the operation was ordered after months of investigation, during which the secret police established credibly that the affected judges were involved in questionable financial dealings.

The crackdown on the senior members of the judiciary had generated heated debates across the country, with government critics accusing the executive arm of overstepping its powers.

But Mr. Obasanjo, who was president between 1999 and 2007, said the judiciary left the executive with no choice in the incident.

“While one would not feel unconcerned for the method used, one should also ask if there was an alternative,” the former president said.

“The National Judicial Council, NJC, would not do anything as it was all in-breeding. As now contained in our Constitution, the President of Nigeria cannot influence or make any appointment to the Judiciary at the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court level.

“He can only transmit the decision of the NJC to the Senate even where Senate confirmation is required.
The Constitution which was heavily influenced by the Judiciary ensured that. And yet a drastic disease requires a drastic treatment. When justice is only for sale and can only be purchased by the highest bidder, impunity and anarchy would be the order of the day and no one would be safe.”

Last Monday, Sylvester Ngwuta, one of the judges whose homes was raided by the SSS, was arraigned before a federal court in Abuja.

Mr. Ngwuta, a Supreme Court judge, pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of money laundering.

Mr. Obasanjo said a drastic action was needed to save the situation in the judiciary, adding that an alternative that would serve the same purpose would have been preferred if it was available.

“In the absence of that alternative, we must all thank God for giving the President the wisdom, courage and audacity for giving the security agencies the leeway to act,” he said.

“And where a mistake was made in the action taken, correction must take place with an apology, if necessary.”

The former president also lashed out at Nigerian lawyers, saying that there would be virtually no corrupt judge without being aided by a member of the bar.

“The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has the responsibility to clean up its own house and help with the cleaning of the Judiciary,” he said.

“It is heartening though that some members of the NBA have recently called for judicial reform. Such reform must be deep, comprehensive and entail constitutional amendments as appointment and disciplines of Judges are concerned.

“May God continue to imbue the Executive with the necessary wisdom and courage to clean the dirty stable of the Judiciary and the Bar for the progress and the image of our Nation.

“It must also be said that the good eggs within the Judiciary must be proud of themselves and we must not only be proud of them but also protect them and their integrity.”

How Supreme Court Justice Ngwuta Concealed Evidence Of Corruption – Prosecutor

The federal government has accused a Supreme Court justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, of culpability in the destruction of evidence intended to be brought against him.

Mr. Ngwuta was arraigned before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court on Monday.

He is among seven judges arrested by operatives of the State Security Service on October 8, after a midnight raid on their residences by the SSS on October 7.

After pleading not guilty to the 15-count charge, the judge’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi, prayed the court to admit his client on bail.

Speaking during a court session to determine Mr. Ngwuta’s application for bail, prosecution counsel, Charles Adeogun, said he was objecting to the application because Mr. Ngwuta was capable of interfering with witnesses and concealing documents that could incriminate him.

“Barely 20 minutes after he was granted administrative bail, one of the witnesses received a call from the defendant. During that call a number of instructions were given to the witness: ‘get rid of those cards. Go into my bathroom, in my residence where you will find three bags,’. Those bags contained 27 million each; they were moved from the residence and completely concealed.

“That same witness came back to the house, removed three luxury cars and concealed them. Days before his residence was raided on October 8, the defendant had four valid passports,” added Mr. Adeogun.

He said the allegations of interference were so apparent that they were contained in counts 3,10 to 16 of the charge against the defendant.

Mr. Adeogun therefore submitted that he was cautiously making his objection; considering the status of the defendant, but also taking note of the alleged offences.

“My Lord it is in recognition to these offences committed when the administrative bail were granted, that we cautiously object to the application.

Earlier, counsel to the defendant, Kanu Agabi, asked the court to grant his client bail on self recognizance.

He said sections 32, 158 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, as well as section 35 (4) and 36 of the constitution have made it clear that once a defendant appears in court to attend to his matter, he no longer needs to proof the reason why his bail application should be granted.

Mr. Agabi, therefore, submitted that his client should be granted bail on self recognizance.

He said the law already allows a defendant room for bail and if his client’s bail is denied, it will only show that the said provisions are not practicable.

After the submission made by the prosecution, Mr. Agabi said it was dangerous for Mr. Adeogun to conclude on the matter, as he had done.

“I was just listening to my learned counsel. But if you have concluded already then we are finished,” said Mr. Agabi.

The case was stood down for an hour before the ruling on the application.

Corruption Trial Update: Justice Ngwuta gets N100m bail.

Justice John Tsoho of an Abuja Federal High Court, on Monday granted a Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta bail in the sum of N100m.


Justice Ngwuta is one of the judges arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, on October 8 over allegations of bribery and professional misconduct.


The judge was earlier arraigned before the Justice Tsoho-led court on a 16-count charges bordering on money laundering and professional misconduct.


Tsoho said the bail sum was based on self-recognisance of Ngwuta as a serving justice of the Supreme Court.


He gave the ruling after listening to the bail arguments by both lawyers of the accused and the Federal Government.


“I hold the offence is bailable. I hereby rule that the defendant be granted bail in the sum of N100m in self-recognisance,” Tsoho said.


Earlier, Federal Government’s counsel, Charles Adeogun-Philips had informed the court that the sum of N27m found in the bathroom of the accused judge was removed.