EFCC Asks Supreme Court To Upturn Judgment On Justice Nganjiwa

EFCC Approaches Supreme Court, Challenges Judgment On Justice Nganjiwa
File photo

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court of Nigeria to upturn the judgment of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which struck out the charges of unlawful enrichment filed against a justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa.

In a notice of appeal to challenge the judgment, the EFCC through its counsel, Wahab Shittu, argued that the independence of certain bodies, including the National Judicial Council (NJC) as guaranteed under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution does not preclude the institution of criminal proceedings by the state against judicial officers, neither does it confer immunity from criminal proceedings.

The Appeal Court, in a judgment delivered on December 11, 2017, by Justice Obaseki Adejumo, held that the NJC must first perform its constitutional role of disciplining the judge and recommending him for prosecution before the EFCC can file charges against him.

But the anti-graft agency argued in its appeal before the apex court that the Appeal Court erred in law when it held that the NJC was the sole body empowered by the Constitution to determine allegations of misconduct against judicial officers, even on criminal allegations of bribery and corruption made against its officers.

The commission also contended that no judicial officer is covered by immunity from prosecution as the Constitution only grants the powers to discipline judicial officers for official misconduct to the NJC.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.

On June 23, 2017, Justice Nganjiwa, a sitting judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division was arraigned before Justice Adedayo Akintoye of the Lagos High Court sitting in the Igbosere area of Lagos Island.

He was arraigned by the EFCC on 14 counts of collecting bribes to pervert the course of justice.

The commission claimed that the judge received the sums of $260,000 and N8,650,000 through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.

The EFCC also alleged that the sums did not correspond with the judge’s salary and that he could not explain the source of the funds.

Before his arraignment, his lawyer Robert Clarke had, however, filed a preliminary objection insisting that the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case as it is only the NJC that is constitutionally empowered to discipline a serving judge.

But in her judgment, Justice Akintoye threw out the application, and held that “It is trite in law that the court can entertain and determine the right of any citizen no matter their status”.

Mr Clarke had, however, challenged the judgment at the Court of Appeal which resulted in the court striking out the charges against Justice Nganjiwa.

EFCC Arraigns Justice Nganjiwa Over Alleged Unlawful Enrichment

EFCC Arraigns Justice Nganjiwa Over Alleged Unlawful Enrichment
File photo

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, for alleged unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8.65m.

Justice Nganjiwa was arraigned on 14 counts before Justice Adedayo Akintoye of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, Lagos Island.

The trial judge dismissed a preliminary objection challenging his jurisdiction, a situation which paved the way for the arraignment of the judge.

Justice Nganjiwa, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on self-recognisance.

The court directed the defendant to deposit his passport in the custody of the Chief Registrar of the Lagos State High Court within seven days.

Justice Nganjiwa was also asked to make himself available in court throughout the entire length of his trial.

The trial was fixed for October 6 and 10, 2017.

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.

Two Federal High Court Judges Report To EFCC

Judges in EFCC custodyTwo Federal High Court judges in Nigeria, Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa have reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Following an invitation letter the EFCC extended to them, the judges arrived at the anti-graft agency’s office at about 10:05am on Monday, October 17 in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.

Their invitation was sequel to the alleged bribery and money laundering the commission discovered while investigating an ongoing case for which two senior lawyers had already been arraigned in court.

The lawyers, Rickey Tarfa and Joseph Nwobike, were arraigned by the EFCC before a Lagos High Court on March 9, 2016, on allegations of bribery and offering gratification to a public official.

Tarfa and Nwobike are facing criminal prosecution for allegedly offering gratification to Federal High Court judges, to refrain them from exercising the duties of their office.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the two judges allegedly received money from the two senior lawyers severally.

The judges were questioned by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

Anti-corruption War Extended To Judiciary

The anti-corruption war of the present administration has been extended to legal practitioners, with top judges being investigated.

On October 8, operatives of some security agencies raided homes of some judges and arrested some of them.

The Department of State Services (DSS), which carried out the operation with some police officials, said that the judges were being investigated for alleged corruption and misconduct.

Their arrest had whipped up diverse comments, with the Nigerian Bar Association saying it was unconstitutional.

The association further declared a state of emergency in the judiciary over the midnight arrest of the judges and demanded that they should be released unconditionally.

After days in detention and several other demands for their release, the DSS granted them bail on self-recognisance, with a mandate that they must report to the security agency’s office when needed.