Court clears Justice Ngwuta of corruption charges
A Federal High Court, Abuja, has freed Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta from corruption charges.
Justice John Tsoho in his ruling yesterday, relied on the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court and held that the prosecution in the Justice Ngwuta’s case failed to comply with the condition precedent before bringing charges against him.
He stated that it was difficult to distinguish which of the alleged offences against the defendant fell among those on which the Court of Appeal said he could be tried without first being subjected to scrutiny by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The ruling hinged on the application filed by Justice Ngwuta, who relied on the Nganjiwa judgment to ask the Federal High Court to discontinue his trial.
He argued that NJC was cautious when it used the word ‘may’ in deciding that some offences could be prosecuted without first subjecting such judicial officer to NJC’s disciplinary process, as such distinction was always difficult to make.
Justice Tsoho rejected the argument by the prosecution led by Mrs. Femi Fatunde that the provision of the laws relied on by Justice Ngwuta in his application “be interested as it is and not as it ought to be.”
The judge further held that “such interpretation of the law cannot be meaningfully done without cognition of the necessary inference or inferences and implication.
“And if that must be done, the inevitable position will be that the NJC must first consider cases involving judicial officers across all offences before the involvement of law enforcement agencies.
“This position has to be weighed against the fact that the submissions in paragraphs 4.6.1 to 4.6.4 of the respondents written address are largely inconsistent and self-defeating,” the judge said.
Fatunde had at the hearing of Justice Ngwuta’s application, admitted that nine out of the 13- count charges fell under the offences covered by the Court of Appeal in the Nganjuwa case.
Justice Tsoho added that it was very significant to draw closer attention to the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal at page 19 of the judgment in Nganjiwa case, which Fatunde emphasised.
“This court holds the respective view that the use of the phrase: ‘He may be arrested,’ is very instructive. This is because the word may connotes permissiveness as opposed to being compulsory or mandatory.
“It shows that the court of appeal was being courteous in its use of language when it did not use any of the words ‘must or shall,’ in that regard.
Justice Tsoho, after reviewing the four counts: three, 10, 11and 13 of the charges in respect of which the prosecution argued that the court could continue to prosecute the defendant, held that there was no clear distinction as to whether Justice Ngwuta committed the offences outside his official responsibilities.
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