UPDATE: Federal Government Appoints New Prosecutor For Justice Ngwuta’s Trial

The Nigerian government has appointed Mrs Olufemi Fatunde of the Federal Ministry of Justice, as the Lead Prosecutor in the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a Supreme Court Justices who is standing trial for alleged corruption.

At the resumed hearing of the case in Abuja, Mrs Fatunde announced appearance as the new Head of the? Prosecution team following the withdrawal of the former Head of the Prosecution Team, Charles Adeogun-Philips.

Shortly after announcing her appearance, Mrs Fatunde made an oral application seeking an adjournment of the case to enable her study the file and also interview the witnesses.

Lawyer to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, however did not oppose the application and Justice John Tsoho subsequently adjourned the case to March 16 and 17, 2017, for continuation of trial.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the justices arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS), on October 8, 2016 for corruption and breach of professional ethics.

In November, he had entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges leveled against him by the Federal Government.

We sacked Justice Ngwuta’s lead prosecutor – Office of AGF

The Federal Government says the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) sacked Charles Adeogun-Philips, the lead prosecutor in the suit against Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta for unprofessional conduct.

Salisu Isah, Special Adviser on Media to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, revealed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

Mr. Adeogun-Philips had on Thursday, at the resume hearing of the case, announced his withdrawal but did not give any reason for his action.

Mr. Ngwuta is facing trial before Justice James Too on charges of money laundering, age falsification and illegal possession of multiple international passports, among others.

Mr. Isah, who is also Head of Communication and Public Affairs, NPCC, said that Mr. Adeogun-Philips’ sack was conveyed to him in a letter.

He said that the NPCC that engaged the services of Mr. Adeogun-Philips, withdrew the fiat issued to him to prosecute the case over non-disclosure of conflict of interest and for other sundry reasons.

He said the impression given by Mr. Adeogun-Philips suggesting that he withdrew from the case on his own volition was not true.

“The report that he left in protest due to last week Tuesday’s dropping of charges earlier instituted against the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Gambo Saleh and two other officials of the apex court which he is also handling cannot be relied upon.

“The insinuation that the attorney-general withdrew the case against the three Supreme Court officials because they are Northerners is also unwarranted.

“The dropping of the suit was done in good faith and in the context of plea bargaining to achieve greater goals in the prosecution of the other bigger cases that are ongoing against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta among others.”

According to Mr. Isah, it is “wicked and childish” for anyone to allude undue colouration to an action taken in national interest and reduce it to a North/South thing.

“This is not the first time such process will be entered into in law, especially so as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 allows plea bargaining in line with national interest.

“And as a way of precedence, there was a time in the history of this nation that the allegations against Sgt. Rogers, who was accused of killing Kudirat Abiola, were stepped down for him to be used to testify against Maj Hamza Al-Mustapha.

“This was in the case between him and the Lagos State government over the killing of the wife of the acclaimed winner of the 1992 presidential election, late Chief M.K.O Abiola.

“It has now clearly shown that, either corruption is fighting back or simply that some people want to be mischievous and to hoodwink and divert the estimation of Nigerians from the core issues at stake.”

He expressed concern that no one was talking of the “unprofessional conduct” of Mr. Adeosun-Philips who was handling a brief in an ongoing suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He said this amounted to conflict of interest which he failed to disclose when being engaged.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the NPCC, chaired by Mr. Malami, was inaugurated by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on May 27, 2016.

It is charged with assisting the Attorney- General in the exercise of his prosecutorial powers under Section 150 and 174(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; especially as it involves high profile criminal cases.(NAN)

Just In: Lead Prosecutor withdraws from Justice Ngwuta’s trial

There was mild drama on Thursday at the resumed hearing of the trial of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, holding at the Federal High Court in Abuja, The Punch reports.

The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, withdrew from the trial of Justice Ngwuta, who is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on money laundering charges involving over N500m.

Adeogun-Philips, a private legal practitioner, announced his decision to withdraw from the case before Justice John Tsoho.

At the continuation of the trial, Justice Tsoho asked if both the prosecuting and the defence teams, were ready for Ngwuta’s trial.

In response, Adeogun-Philips, rose to inform the judge that he had decided to withdraw from the case.

Adeogun-Philips, who is a former International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, gave no reason for his decision, but he sat back when the case was eventually called.

When the case was called, Mrs. Hajara Yusuf, a counsel from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, took over as the leader of the prosecuting team.

Informing the judge of the change, she said, “I have been instructed to inform the court that Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, the lead prosecuting counsel, will no longer be appearing in this matter.

“In view of this change, myself and my colleagues will be appearing subject when arrangement will be made in due course.”

Justice Tsoho thanked Adeogun-Philips for his “courtesy” in the course of his appearance for the prosecution.

“He is wished success in his further endeavours,” the judge said.

The lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), also commended Adeogun-Philips’ conduct and wished him success too.


Source: YNaija

FG files charges against arrested judges at CCT

The federal government on Wednesday filed two separate charges against Sylvester Ngwuta, a supreme court judge, and Adeniyi Ademola, his federal high court counterpart, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

They were alleged to have contravened the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act.

Salihu Isha, special adviser on media and publicity to the attorney-general of the federation, disclosed this in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Isah said Hajara Yusuf, principal state counsel at the federal ministry of justice, filed the charges on behalf of the attorney-general, pursuant to section 24 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

According to Isah, the government in its request to arraign Ngwuta alleged that “he engaged in private business as a public officer, contrary to section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act”.

The judge is also alleged to have refused to declare his assets as a public officer contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, Cap C15 laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 23(2) of the same Act.

Ngwuta is expected to face a 10-count charge.

Part of the charges against him were that “between 2nd June 2011 and 19th uly 2016 while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Tribunal, did make a false declaration of assets to the CCB when he failed to declare three duplexes at Chinedu Ogah Avenue, Ntezi, Aba in Abakaliki, while being a justice of the supreme court”.

He is also alleged in the second count to have between the 2nd June 2011 and 19th July 2016, while serving as a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria made a false declaration to the CCB when he failed to declare 22 plots of land at Chief Igwe Uga Avenue, Abakaliki, while the third count states that he failed to declare six plots of land at Frank Okoroafor Avenue, Abakaliki.

Also, Ademola has a two-count allegation filed against him and for which an affidavit was also deposed to by Samuel Madojemu of the CCB.

Count one of the charge against Ademola is that, he failed to declare his assets to the CCB and thereby breached section 15 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 and punishable under section 23(2) of the same Act, while the second count is that he engages and participate in private business contrary to section 6 of the CCB and Tribunal Act and punishable under Section 23(2) of same Act.

N27m cash was ‘found in Justice Ngwuta’s bathroom’ – FG lawyer

Counsel to the Federal Government, Charles Adeogun Philips, on Monday told an Abuja Federal High Court that N27m in cash was found at the residence of a Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, but it “completely disappeared.”

According to Philip, the large sum was allegedly found in Ngwuta’s bathroom but the judge later ordered that the money be removed.

Philips made the claim while arguing against the bail application by Ngwuta’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi, SAN.

Alleging that the apex court judge gave the order for the money to be removed on October 9, the Federal Government’s lawyer informed the court that Ngwuta attempted to conceal evidence.

Philips claimed that Ngwuta first instructed a witness to “go and get rid of those cars,” adding that the second instruction was “go to my bathroom you will find two bags.

“The bags contained 27m in cash”, and that “they were moved from the location.

”There are sufficient grounds that the defendant will interfere with potential prosecution witnesses and with evidence.

“We object to bail being granted because we are of the opinion that the defendant may conceal or destroy evidence.”

The Federal Government’s counsel urged the court not to grant the accused judge bail because he possessed multiple identities, and could jump bail because he once left the country with false identification.

Agabi, hwever, prayed the court to grant his client bail in liberal terms and self recognition, stressing that the offence Ngwuta was standing trial for was bailable.

Justice John Tsoho after listening to the argument of both lawyers adjourned the matter for an hour to deliver a ruling.

Earlier, the apex court justice had pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charges preferred against him by the Federal Government.

Recall that the Department of State Services, DSS, had on October 8, arrested Ngwuta alongside some judges over alleged corrupt practices.

Fraud: FG to arraign Justice Ngwuta November 21

The Federal Government will on November 21 arraign a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, before the Federal High Court in Abuja on charges of money laundering and others relating to violation of provisions of Immigration Act relating to obtaining of passports.

Our correspondent learnt on Thursday that the case had been assigned to Justice John Tsoho.

It was gathered that the court’s registrars, had on the instruction of the judge, issued and served notices for the arraignment scheduled to hold on Monday on parties to the suit.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution on Wednesday confirmed to our correspondent that it had received the court’s hearing notice.

The amended charges with suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/232/2016, raised the number of counts from original 10 to 14.

The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had on Wednesday amended the charges raising fresh allegations of money laundering involving N505m against him.

It was alleged that the sum of N505m was part of proceeds of Ngwuta’s “unlawful” activities.

The defendant allegedly transferred the total sum of N505m “denominated in naira and US dollars” to a building contractor between January and May 2016.

The prosecution alleged that the Justice of the Supreme Court transferred the total sum of N130m to Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, a building contractor, on January 4, 2016.

Ngwuta was also accused of transferring the sum of N165m to Chukwuebuka “on or about April 2016” and another sum of N100m to the building contractor “on or about” the same period.

He was also charged with transferring the sum of N110m to the same person “on or about May, 2016.”

The sum of money allegedly transferred to the building contractor by the judge within the five-month period totalled N505m.

The alleged offences contained in the first four counts of the amended charges were said to be contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

As alleged in the old set of charges, Ngwuta was accused in the amended charges of retaining N35,358,000; $319,596 and £25,915 during the raid on his house by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8.

The various sums of money were also described by the prosecution as proceeds of “unlawful” activities of the justice of the apex court.

The offences were said to be contrary to section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.

Apart from the money laundering charges, Ngwuta was accused of passport offences in counts eight to 14 of the amended charges.

He was accused of being in possession of two valid diplomatic passports and another two valid standard Nigerian passports, when his house was raided by DSS operatives on October 8, 2016.

He also allegedly submitted multiple applications, made false information of loss of the passports and of his age with intention to obtain multiple of the passports in violation of various provisions of the Immigration Act 2015.

According to the proof of evidence accompanying the charges, the prosecution has lined up five witnesses against the Justice of the Supreme Court.

They are Aminu N. Ibrahim, Ngo Awoikiega, Mr. Tanko Nuhu Kutana, Ogudu Nwadire and Nwamba Chukwuebuka.