The trial of the Supreme Court justice, Sylvester Ngwuta for corruption related offences suffered a set back on Thursday, when the counsel engaged by the Federal Government from International Criminal Court to conduct prosecution opted out unceremoniously without advancing reasons.
Charles Adeogun-Philips, who the Federal Government engaged for the high profile corruption case due to his international experience announced his withdrawal without advancing his reasons.
However, sources said that the anger of the lawyer would have been provoked by alleged uncooperative attitude of the Federal Government which brought the complain of corruption against the apex court Justice.
Shortly after the case was announced for continuation of the trial, the counsel took the microphone and informed the trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho that he was withdrawing his appearance in the matter.
Although, Justice Tsoho did not inquire as to what informed the action of the counsel, he however, showered praise on him for having the courtesy to personally come to court to announce his withdrawal.
Meanwhile, a new counsel Yusuf Hajara quickly announced her appearance for replacement.
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 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.”
The Judge thanked Adeogun-Philips for his “courtesy” in the course of his appearance for the prosecution.
“The court has taken into notice of the withdrawal of the prosecution counsel and the court wished him success in his further endeavours,” the Judge said.
The lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), also commended the erstwhile prosecuting counsel’s conduct and wished him success too.
In a cross examination by Chief Agabi, Linus Chukwuebuka, the first prosecution witness said he would not have done the contract with the defendant if he thought it was illegal.
Chukwuebuka said he was paid for the service he did for the defendant because he thought it was legal
“I would not have accepted the payment if I thought it was a crime but he explained the source of the money that was why I accepted.
‘The work I did for the defendant was in the open, I documented all the construction I did for him and the document cannot be regarded as illicit.
“I have never received any complain against the defendant or heard of any report from police or any enforcement agency,” he said.
When asked if he remembered in his testimony he said he helped the defendant removed cars and money from his resident in Abakiliki, he said ‘yes’.
The witness further stated that he was arrested and detained for 7 days by the DSS but he does not consider his arrest and detention as being justified.
He also said he has never for once come under any kind of suspicion in his work because he had worked for the government, individuals and agencies.
Yusuf asked for an adjournment to enable her put thing in order in regards to the new changes.
Justice Tsoho adjourned the case to Feb. 13, for continuation of hearing.
It will be recalled that Justice Ngwuta was arraigned on a 16-count charges including money laundering and offences relating to obtaining of multiple International Passport.
Justice Ngwuta was also allegedly engaged in private business as a public officer, contrary to Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
He was also alleged to have refused to declare his assets as a public officer, contrary to Section 15 of the Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act. Justice Ngwuta would be facing a 10-count charge.
The affidavit to support the charges against Justice Ngwuta was deposed to by the Head, Investigation Division, CCB, Mr. Samuel Ozigbe Madojemu, who said: “I am aware that the said Mr. Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta filed the following assets declaration forms for public officers with the Code of Conduct Bureau while serving as a public officer; (a) Code of Conduct Bureau assets declaration form CCB1 dated 2nd June, 2011, (b) Code of Conduct Bureau assets declaration form CCB dated 19th July, 2016.”