FG Admits, 9 Counts No Longer Relevant in Trial of Justice Ngwuta

The Federal Government has admitted that nine out of the 13 count-charge against Supreme Court Judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, have become irrelevant.
Counsel, who is prosecuting the matter for the Federal Government, Olufemi Fatunde, Wednesday, admitted that the nine charges have become deed in view of Appeal Court pronouncement on a similar matter.
The Court of Appeal in Lagos had held in the prosecution of Justice Nganjiwa that the EFCC cannot try a serving judicial officer without recommendation from the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC).
The Federal Government had arraigned Justice Ngwuta before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on a 16 count charge bothering on corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes but later amended the charges to 13.
Fatunde, who made the concession Wednesday at the resumed trial while responding to the defendant’s application seeking to quash the entire charge, however urged the court to continue with the trial on the merit of the remaining four charges.
The prosecution counsel told the court that she will not pretend that the trial court is not bound by the decision of the superior court, nor will she urge the court to act in conflict with the law.
She said, “But, with greatest respect I will point out two major aspects of the Court of Appeal decision in Nganjiwa case that goes to the root of the charge.”
Fatunde argued that offences committed by judicial officer, raises a fundamental question whether such offence was committed during the course of performance of his official duties or not.
“If the court finds that the offence committed outside the performance of his official duty, then it was right to have arrested and prosecuted him without recourse to National Judicial Council”, she said
Fatunde submitted that counts 3, 10,11and 13 could be prosecuted against the defendant without recourse to NJC, assuming without conceding that the other offences charged were committed in the discharge of his official duty.
She urged the trial court to note that Court of Appeal recognized the fact in Justice Nganjiwa’s case that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), did not make express provision as to whether judicial officer should be disciplined first by NJC before prosecution or not.
She therefore urged the court to discountenanced the defendant’s objection and continue with the hearing of the matter till conclusion if not all the counts, at least, of counts 3,10,11,13.
Responding, defence counsel, led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) thanked the prosecution counsel for her courage in conceding 9 counts out of 13 counts.
Kanu argued that it is only the NJC that determines, “whether an offence is committed by judicial officer during the performance of official duty or outside their official duty.”
The senior advocate stated that in the instant case the NJC was not given the chance first to make that decision .
Arguing further, Kanu said that the dignity of the office of a judge is violated if he is arraigned while he holds that title. “That is the essence of the judgment. Remove the title before submitting him to trial”, he said.
He stated that if the prosecution has already conceded to 9 of the counts, then the remaining should be struck out, stressing that the Justice Nganjiwa case should not be lost.
Kanu, noted that the prosecution’s submission also upheld the court to strike out the entire counts.
Justice Tsoho, after taken submission of counsel, adjourned till March 23, for ruling on the application seeking to strike out the charge.

Author: News Editor

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