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FG amends charges against Justice Ngwuta


Justice Sylvester Ngwuta during his arraignment at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday, November 21, 2016. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

Dasuki’s absence stalls trial, case adjourned till today

The Federal Government has again amended the corruption charges it preferred against justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, at a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Three amendments were done to the original charges filed in December 2016. Shortly after the lead prosecution counsel, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, announced the latest development to the court yesterday, the amended charges were read to the defendant, who pleaded not guilty to all the 13 counts.

The amended charges have only one additional count, which was earlier removed in the previous amendment done in March this year. The re-introduced count has to do with the allegation that Justice Ngwuta gave false information to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) concerning his diplomatic passport with the purpose of procuring another one.

Other charges, including money laundering allegation of retention and concealment of various sums of money in local and foreign currencies, allegedly recovered from him during the raid of the operatives of the Department of State Service on October 8, 2016, remained part of the amended charges.

He was also accused, as contained in the previous charges, of giving various cash sums of money above the statutory threshold to his building contractor for the building of various houses in his home-state, Ebonyi State, without going through a financial institution.

The lead defence counsel, Agabi, stated that he had no objection to the amendment and the reading of the charges, but expressed concerns about the frequency of the alterations to the charges.

He said that it was a confirmation that the prosecution was merely ‘fishing’ and that the court had the power to reject the amendment if it was not convinced about it.

Justice Tsoho eventually directed the amended charges to be read to the defendant, who pleaded not guilty to all the counts. In another development, the absence of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), has stalled his trial at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Maitama, Abuja.

The prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN), told Justice Baba Yusuf that he was surprised that the former NSA was not within the court premises for the continuation of his trial but however declined to give reasons why the defendant was not produced.

He asked that the case be stood down for another one hour to enable him make contact with the agency responsible for Dasuki’s detention. But counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said the statement of Jacob was not helpful to the court and demanded to know the whereabouts of his client.

He said he was apprehensive on the whereabouts of his client who had been in the custody of the DSS since 2015, adding that the only person who could authoritatively inform the court on whereabouts of the former NSA is the prosecution counsel.

Justice Baba Yusuf in his brief comment said that Jacob as the leader of the prosecuting team ought to have known ahead whether the defendant would be produced in court or not by the DSS.

He, therefore, gave the Federal Government till today, May 17, 2017 to produce Dasuki in court for the continuation of the trial and that the prosecution should do the needful to assist the court with the presence of the defendants in court.

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