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The Federal Government yesterday arraigned Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja, on an eight-count charge bothering on non-declaration of assets.
In one of the counts against Justice Ngwuta, the Federal Government alleged that the judge engaged in purchase and sale of rice, palm oil and other related products, while being a Justice of the Supreme Court and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 6 of the Code Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act.
In the charge, Ngwuta was accused of engaging in private business as a public officer, contrary to Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
He was also accused of not declaring his assets as a public officer contrary to Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act. Specifically, he was accused of not declaring his ownership of 28 plots of land to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in the assets declaration form he filled between June 2, 2011 and July 19, 2016.
He was also accused of shielding his ownership of five exotic cars. Part of the charges against him includes “that between 2nd June 2011 and 19th July 2016, while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and within the jurisdiction of this honourable tribunal, did make a false declaration of assets” to the CCB when he failed to declare three duplexes at Chinedu Ogah Avenue, Ntezi, Aba in Abakaliki, while being a Justice of the Supreme Court.
He was alleged to have, between June 2, 2011 and July 19, 2016, while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria made a false declaration to the CCB when he failed to declare 22 plots of land at Chief Igwe Uga Avenue, Abakaliki, as well as failed to declare six plots of land at Frank Okoroafor Avenue, Abakaliki.
Other allegations was that Ngwuta failed to declare a Peugeot saloon car with Vehicle No: VRG55513890295200 and Chassis No: VF34B- 5FV9BS069213, Registration No: ABC566RL and count five revealed that he failed to declare a Wrangler Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG55535620346898 and Chassis No: IJ- 4GA591581626734, Registration No: RSH526AJ.
The judge, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him.
Counsel to the defendant, Kanu Agabi (SAN) made oral application, praying the tribunal to grant bail to the judge on self-recognisance. Prosecution counsel, Umar Mohammed, did not oppose the application, but rather prayed the tribunal to allow him to produce his witnesses on July 12.
Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, later admitted the defendant to bail on self-recognisance and consequently adjourned trial till July 12.
Justice Ngwuta was among the seven judges that were arrested after a sting operation by the Department of State Services (DSS) conducted between October 7 and 8, 2016. He is currently facing an 18-count corruption charge before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.