Update: Ngwuta Re-arraigned on 11-count Amended Charge

The Federal Government, Thursday, filed an amended 11-count charge against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a Judge of the Supreme Court.
The Federal Government had earlier filed a 16-count charge against Ngwuta bordering on corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes.
He pleaded not guilty to the new charges when they were read to him.
The prosecution counsel, Olufemi Fatunde, said the amended charges were brought under section 216 of the Criminal Justice Act.
She said the Federal Government was ready to continue with the presentation of witnesses.
She said that the first prosecution witness, Linus Chekwuebuka, was still in court though he was cross examined on the last adjourned date.
She also informed the court that there are exhibits she will like to tender in line with the amended charges as stipulated under section 219 of the Criminal Administrative Act,which according to her says when there is a amendment in charge during trial, a prosecution witness can be called on to present exhibits in court in line with the amended charges.
While re-examine, Chekwuebuka said he referred to three bags containing the sum of N27m which he removed from the defendant’s house in Abakiliki.
He said he had told the court that the defendant called him and told him to remove those bags from the house and he can identify the bags when shown to him.
When the witness identified the two bags brought to the court, the prosecution lawyer sought to tender two bags, out of three, as evidence.
The Judge admitted the two bags in evidence as exhibit 3a and 3b.
The witness firther stated that he spent N23m out of the N27m he took from the defendant’s house to carry out some construction project for him.
He said the remaining money was taken by the officers of Department of State Services (DSS), when he was invited to their office for questioning.
He also said when they counted the money in his presence, it was a little above N4m. .
“The bags contain N4, 365,840m but we are not tendering the money”, said the lead prosecutor.
Chekwuebuka said he made statements at the DSS office and I will recognise the statements when shown to me.
He said he made the first, second and third statement on Nov. 12, 13 and 17, 2017, respectively.
The three statements were also admitted in evidence as exhibit 4a, 4b and 4c.
Under cross examination by the defendant’s counsel, Agabi, the witness said he earlier told the court that he made two statements because he forgot he made three.
He however admitted that there are no contradictions in the three statements
When asked if he made the three statement in the defence of the defendant or in his defence, the witness said he made the statements in his defence.
The second prosecution witness, Ahmed Saleh, Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, he said his schedules include administration of Supreme Court, heads the court registry and accounting officer of court finances, including general welfare of court officials.
Saleh said he first knew Justice Ngwuta in 2011 when he was made a Supreme Court Judge.
Responding to a question by the prosecution counsel, he said remuneration of judges include salary, allowances, estacode when travelling and some welfare packages
He said Justices of the Supreme Court receive N751, 041 as monthly salary
“Also he (Ngrwuta) collects N7, 100 every monthly for office upkeep. If he travels outside he collect $1,300 as estacode for a night, €10, 000 is yearly for medical check up.
“He also enjoys 18 days estacode of $1,300 anytime he is going fir medical check up overseas. He went five times for check up, from 2011 to 2016 which amounted to €50,000
“He was also paid little above N8m for flight tickets during this period. The total estacode stood at $160,000. Over N103m total money was collected by him within the period “, he explained
When asked if any Judge is allowed to do business while a Justice of the Supreme Court, he said Code of Conduct forbids it. .
Under cross-examination by defendant’s counsel, Agabi:, Saleh said he never for once received any bad report or complain against Ngwuta as Justice of the Court or any report of fraud against him.
“Do you know of any law or rules that forbid Judges to own properties”, to which Saleh replied “I don’t know of any law” .
The trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho of a Federal High Court adjourned till March 17 for continuation of trial.
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”.

Author: News Editor

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