Judges’ Lifestyle Not Proof Of Corruption – Muyiwa Sobo

Legal practitioner Muyiwa Sobo says one’s lifestyle, regardless of how extravagant it is, is not proof of corruption.

He said this while responding to suggestions that the judiciary may not be cooperating with the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.

Recalling the instance of the raid on judges in October 2016, Mr Sobo who was against the action of the Department of State Services, explained that when a raid is conducted outside the provisions of the law, the cases cannot be prosecuted successfully.

He said, “When you conducted those raids outside of what is normal within the law, you cannot expect to win those cases. I think it was one of the government officials who came and said, ‘We have been watching these people and we are going after them because of their lifestyle’. Lifestyle is not proof. That is why I said those cases will not go far, those judges will be acquitted.

He said this while speaking on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, days after six of the eight judges, whose homes were raided, were recalled by the National Judicial Council (NJC) after being suspended from carrying out their judicial duties.

“The judiciary has a job to do, to adjudicate, rule on cases – there is no co-operation that is required in that. If the government or the prosecutor brings in an iron-clad case, you have credible witnesses, you have evidence that can be admissible in front of the court, what the court would do is look at those things and issue a judgement.

“You don’t go into court and expect the court to rule on your behalf because you expect the judge to cooperate,” the lawyer added.

Furthermore, he stressed that there is a difference between the judiciary cooperating and the judiciary being corrupt.

“If you think the judiciary is corrupt then do something about the corruption but don’t base your cases on the fact that the judiciary is corrupt. It’s not all judges that are corrupt, by the way, and when you talk about judicial corruption, you have to hold people accountable, you have to show examples.

“Do due diligence in presenting your case, prosecute your case.

“I was reading in the newspapers this morning where the representative of the EFCC was saying our job is to investigate and charge people to court. No, you don’t have to stop there, you have to prosecute and you have to prosecute vigorously, presenting all the evidence – And in doing so, you have to think of the rights of the accused as well.”

Read Also: Justice Ademola Resumes Sitting

Justice Ademola Resumes Sitting

NJC Recalls Six Out Of Eight Suspended JudgesFollowing his recall by the National Judicial Council (NJC) last week, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja resumed sitting on Wednesday.

Justice Ademola was among the six judges earlier asked by the NJC to stop sitting, shortly after a raid conducted by the Department of State Services on his house and other judges in October 2016.

The NJC, through a statement signed by its Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, on Saturday however, asked that Justice Ademola resumes his judicial duties as the court had exonerated him of the charges preferred against him by the Federal Government.

The judges were accused of corruption as well as other acts of misconduct and had been under investigation by the DSS.

READ ALSO: Justice Ademola’s Trial: DSS Tells Court How It Recovered Local, Foreign Currencies

In January, an official of the DSS had testified that the sum of 38 million Naira, two pump action rifles and some foreign currencies were recovered from the house of Justice Ademola during their search at his residence in October.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife and Mr Joe Agi, a senior lawyer subsequently faced trial on allegations of bribery and illegal possession of firearms.

The NJC last week, however, noted that out of the eight suspended judicial officers, only three have been charged to court.

Justice Nguta Pleads Not Guilty To Eight Charges At CCT

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta has pleaded not guilty to eight charges bordering on false declaration of assets preferred against him by the Federal Government before the tribunal.

According to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Justice Ngwuta contravened section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, laws of the federation of Nigeria, which is punishable under section 23 (2) of the Act.

The Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, adjourned the matter for hearing to July 12, 2017 after the judge pleaded not guilty.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the judges whose residence was raided in October 2016 by the Department of Security Service, which uncovered huge sums of money in in the process.

He is also standing trial before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on an amended 16 counts bordering on money laundering.

 

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta’s Trial Stalled

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta's Trial StalledA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has adjourned the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, to January 18 and 23, 2017.

The Supreme Court Justice, is standing trial for corruption, alleged money laundering, breach of professional ethics and passport forgery related offenses.

The adjournment followed an application by the counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Chief Kanu Agabi, who told the court that he needed more time to prepare for trials as some documents given to him by the prosecution still needed to be studied.

This did not go down well with the prosecutor who urged the court to turn down the application.

However, trial judge, Justice John Tsoho delivered his ruling in favour of the defendant, Ngwuta, on the ground that section 36 of the constitution allows a defendant time to prepare for his defense.

He also added that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, also allows parties in a suit to at least five request for adjournment, afterwhich he adjourned the case.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the justices arrested and detained by the department of state services on October 8, 2016 for corruption and breach of professional ethics.

In November, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta had entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges leveled against him by the federal government.

He was also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million Naira on self-recognition.

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not Guilty, Granted Bail

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not GuiltyJustice Sylvester Ngwuta has entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges of money laundering, breach of professional ethics and forgery leveled against him by the federal government.

He has also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognition.

When the charges were read to him, the Supreme Court judge told the court that he was not guilty of the 15 counts.

Attempt by his lawyer to ask for bail was opposed by the prosecutor, Mr Adeogun Philips who said he had just been served and would need a short adjournment to respond.

With no objection by the defence lawyers, the trial judge, Justice James Tsoho, stood down the case by two hours.

On resumption of hearing on the bail application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Kanu Agabi asked the court to release the defendant on self-recognizance, taking judicial notice of the fact that he is a justice of the Supreme Court and the fact that he has been on administrative bail since on October 8, 2016.

Opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Charles Philips, said that the defendant cannot be granted bail with respect to his position.

Mr Philips, who referred to charges number three and charges numbers 10-16 against Justice Ngwuta, informed the tribunal that barely 20 minutes after he was released on administrative bail, Justice Ngwuta gave instructions to a witness in the case to remove two or three bags containing 27 million naira from his bathroom at his residence in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.

The prosecuting counsel also told the court that Justice Nwguta also instructed the said witness to remove three exotic cars from his residence on the same day and that they are nowhere to be found. That is what forms the subject of charge number three.

Speaking further he informed the court that in the course of investigation, the Department of State Services (DSS) discovered that Justice Ngwuta maintained multiple identities.

According to him Justice Ngwuta had four passports which he used concurrently.

Although he had reported two of those passports missing, he argued that in any jurisdiction in the world, if a person possesses several identities he cannot be released on self-recognizance.

He therefore asked the court not to grant bail but if it is inclined to, it should grant bail in the most stringent terms.

Reacting to the counter application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, told the court that he was not willing to join issues with the prosecutor because he had gone into the substantive suit which is not allowed by law and that the constitution is clear as to when bail should be granted or not.

He added that should the court reach its conclusion based on the prosecutor’s submissions, verdict would have been decided before the case is started.

Having listen to both parties, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stood down the matter for ruling at 2:30PM.

Granted Bail

On resumption, Justice John Tsoho granted bail to Justice Sylvester Ngwuta in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognizance.

According to Justice Tsoho though the prosecution sought to impress the court on the defendants’ unworthiness for bail, it failed to show that in spite of the concerns raised, the defendant had his administrative bail revoked.

He also added that it is no secret that the security agencies are watching every move made by the judge with kin interest, which is how they found that he had multiple passports.

As such the prosecution should rely on the same security apparatus to prevent any attempt not to be available for trial.

He added that it would be great injustice to prevent any citizen from enjoying bail in available offence.

According to Justice Tsoho, it is on record that the prosecution had filed an affidavit of completion of investigation and on the other hand it is raising objections that witnesses and evidence will be tampered with.

The prosecution, he said, should be able to maintain consistency rather than the inconsistencies.

Justice Tsoho then went on to say that there is no evidence before the court that Justice Ngwuta would not be available for his trial and because the offence for which he is standing trial is bailable, he is inclined to grant bail.

Trial has been fixed for December 7 and 8.

Justice Ngwuta was one of the seven judges arrested after a DSS raid on the homes of High Court and Supreme Court judges across the country on October 8, 2016.

DSS Cannot Enforce The Law By Being Unlawful – Muyiwa Subo

DSS Raid, Law, Muyiwa SuboFollowing the reactions that trailed the recent raid on judges by the Department of State Services, legal practitioner, Muyiwa Subo says “one cannot enforce the law by being unlawful”.

He made the comments on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, while addressing the issue of the raid on homes of some judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts, by the DSS.

Mr Sobo said the case was largely an abuse of the judges’ rights to privacy.

Bringing in an international perspective, he said “the right to privacy is such a huge aspect of civil liberty in any democracy.”

He also condemned the comments purportedly made by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, that they should go to court if thing such rights were violated.

The DSS argued that “the way one acquires evidence may be questionable, however it doesn’t mean the evidence would not be valid in court”.

The DSS claims to have received a search warrant which is admissible according to the Administration Of Criminal Justice Act of 2015.

Meanwhile, Mr Sobo on the other hand argued that the admissibility of evidence regardless of how it is acquired, is against civil liberties in a democracy.

“This is because the people must have the confidence that they are safe in their homes, against the power of the government. Besides you cannot gather evidence of corruption simply based on a person’s lifestyle” he added.

He therefore maintained that evidence should not be valid if illegally obtained.

Speaking further on the idea behind the sting operation, the legal practitioner asserted that a search warrant is only needed when attempting to prevent destruction of evidence or in a case where public safety is involved.

Requesting to know what formed the basis of the investigation, he insisted that the DSS must defend its actions otherwise, “it means everything seized during that process will not be admissible”.

A wrong move

Another legal practitioner, Shina Fagbenro-Byron also deplored the

shina-fagbenro-byron
Shina Fagbenro-Byron

manner of approach of the DSS.

He said “if they had a reason to believe that there was an on-going crime as at the time they broke in, then their actions can be justified.

Before resorting to breaking down doors, he asks, “did they knock and the judge did not open”

Mr Byron however stated that the judiciary needs to take a deep look at itself to determine if they are instruments of justice or of law.

He admitted that the justice system has had some challenges and “there is corruption there just as there is everywhere else in the world”.