Justice Ngwuta Earns N24m Annually, Spent N500m In 10 Months – Agf
BEVERLY HILLS, December 08, (THEWILL) – The Federal Government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, has told an Abuja Federal High Court that its investigations revealed that embattled Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, spent over N500m between January and October 2016 despite having N24m as his total annual legitimate earnings, including allowances.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, made this known on Wednesday in a prepared document which summarized the case of the Federal Government against the Justice of the Supreme Court, who was arraigned before the court on November 21, 2016. Ngwuta had, during his arraignment, pleaded not guilty to 16 counts, including money laundering and others relating to fraudulent obtainment of multiple passports.
The presiding judge, Justice John Tsoho adjourned the matter till January 16, 2017 for the prosecution to start calling its witnesses.
In the document prepared in anticipation that the prosecution would be allowed to open its case on Wednesday, it was 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, Ngwuta 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, adding that the defendant had, within a period of one month in 2015, allegedly made various cash payments totaling $180,000 to the building contractor.
While alleging that total sums of N38.358m, $319,596 and £25,915 were found in the defendant's possession during the raid on his Abuja residence by the operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, on October 7, 2016, the Federal Government said the apex court justice gave no satisfactory explanation for the huge sums of money found in his possession.
The document reads in part, “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.”
“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 totaling: (1) N35,358,000 (2) $319,956 and £25,915 were found in the defendant's possession.”
The prosecution further claimed that Ngwuta 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.
Adeogun-Philips disclosed 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.
“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 said.
The prosecution lawyer maintained that 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.
“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,” Adeogun-Philips said.
The prosecution was billed to call its first set of witnesses against the defendant on Wednesday, but the defence lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, pleaded with Justice Tsoho, to further adjourn the case to afford him (Ngwuta) more time to prepare for his defence, stressing that his client was eager to defend himself, “But unfortunately we still have a lot to do to be sufficiently ready”.
Agabi cited section 36(6) of the constitution to buttress his position that any person accused of criminal offences is entitled to be given the “time and facilities” to defend himself.
According to him, “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.”