Justice Ngwuta Stands Trial, Gets N100m Bail | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Justice Ngwuta Stands Trial, Gets N100m Bail

Justice Ngwuta
Posted: Nov 22, 2016 at 4:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


*EFCC Files Corruption Charges Against Ofili-Ajumogobia, Obla



Stephen Ubimago


The Federal Government on Monday arraigned a justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on charges of money laundering and sundry other criminal breaches.

Ngwuta, who was among the seven judicial officers raided and arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) between October 7 and 8, was arraigned before Justice John Tsoho on a 16-count charge bordering on bribery, money laundering, interference and destruction of evidence, among others.

The prosecution led by Charles Adeogun-Philips, accused him of transferring N505 million to a firm, Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, between January and May this year.

The N505 million was part of proceeds of Ngwuta’s unlawful activities, the prosecution alleged, maintaining he was therefore in breach of the provisions of section 18(1)(b) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act.

Ngwuta was also accused of having two valid diplomatic passports and two standard Nigerian passports, which were allegedly found in his house during the October 8 DSS raid.

He was further accused of retaining huge sums of money in local and foreign currencies, being alleged proceeds of his unlawful acts contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering Act.

The accused judge, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges following which his counsel, Kanu Agabi (SAN), prayed the court to admit his client on bail.

Prosecution counsel, Adeogun, however, objected to the application, arguing that the accused judge was capable of interfering with witnesses and concealing documents, or destroying evidence that could help the case of the prosecution.

“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,” Adeogun-Philips stated to buttress his argument for the denial of bail to the accused.

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

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

Defence counsel, Agabi (SAN), however, pressed the court to grant his client bail on self-recognisance.

He argued that sections 32, 158 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, as well as sections 35 (4) and 36 of the 1999 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.

He stressed that 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.

He further contended that it was dangerous for Adeogun to conclude on the matter, as he’d done.

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

After listening to arguments of the parties, the case was stood down for an hour before Tsoho’s ruling on the application.

In his ruling, Justice Tsoho granted Ngwuta bail in the sum of N100 million.

He submitted that the bail was granted on self-recognisance of Ngwuta as a serving justice of the Supreme Court.

“I hold the offence is bailable. I hereby rule that the defendant be granted bail in the sum of N100 million on self-recognisance,” Tsoho said.

Meanwhile, the EFCC has preferred a 30-count charge against a Federal High Court Judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, and Godwin Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

In the charge listed as number LD/367/C/16, Ofili-Ajumogobia was listed as first defendant, while Obla was named as second defendant.

The defendants were said to have committed the offence on May 21, 2015 by conspiring to pervert the course of justice with five million naira.

The money was alleged to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Ltd. in relation to a charge number FHC/L/C/482/10.

Ajumogobia is said to be a sole signatory to Nigel & Colive Ltd.

Both defendants were said to have conspired to pervert the course of justice in contravention of the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

In counts one to four, Obla was said to have offered gratification by transferring the money from his company’s account, Obla & Co., domiciled with the United Bank for Africa to Nigel & Colive.

The transfer was alleged to have been made in order to restrain a public officer from acting in exercise of her official duties.

In counts five, Ajumogobia was said to have unlawfully enriched herself by receiving a transfer of N18 million from one Arkleem Oil and Gas Ltd. in her Diamond Bank account.

In counts six to 20, the judge was alleged to have also received a transfer of monies from various outlets to her Diamond Bank account to the tune of over $788,000.

In count 29, the judge was alleged to have forged a deed of assignment between a company, County City Bricks Dev. Co. Ltd and Nigel & Colive Ltd.

In counts 30, the judge was further alleged to have made a false statement to the EFCC that she was on admission at Gold Cross Hospital at Bourdillion, Ikoyi, which statement was found to be false.

All the offences are said to be contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011 as well as the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

No date has been fixed for the arraignment of the accused.