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Supreme Court Justice Ngwuta dies at 69

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Justice Sylvester Ngwuta PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

‘ Only one S’East justice now left at apex court’
About three weeks to his retirement, Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta of the Supreme Court died yesterday morning. He was 69 years old.

In a statement, the apex court announced that Ngwuta passed on around 2:30 am in his sleep at his residence in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The statement issued by the Chief Registrar, Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha, revealed that the deceased judge fell sick and had been admitted in the last one week in the National Hospital, Abuja, before he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital on Friday March 5. He tested negative for COVID-19. The body has been deposited in the hospital’s mortuary.

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Justice Ngwuta was already set for his retirement from the Supreme Court on March 30, 2021 upon attainment of the 70 years mandatory retirement age.

The late judge, who was born in 1951 in Amofia-Ukawu, Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, obtained a bachelor’s degree in law from Obafemi Awolowo University. He was called to the Bar in 1978 after he graduated from the Nigerian Law School.

Justice Ngwuta began his law career in 1978 as a state counsel in Benue State Ministry of Justice, the same year he established his own law firm.

On October 1995, he was appointed as a judge of the Abia State High Court. On May 22, 2011, he was appointed to the Bench of the Court of Appeal, and on May 2013, he was appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a justice.

The late Justice Ngwuta presided over the Supreme Court’s ruling that affirmed Olusegun Mimiko as governor-elect of Ondo State in the May 2013 governorship election. He also presided over the ruling of the apex court that affirmed Kayode Fayemi as governor-elect of Ekiti State in the June 2013 governorship election.

Ngwuta was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) on October 8, 2016 over allegations of bribery and corruption. However, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) ruled in May 2018 that only the

National Judicial Council (NJC) could determine whether or not Ngwuta would face trial.
In September 2019, Ngwuta resumed his duties as a Supreme Court justice after a three-year suspension.

His death leaves only one justice from the South east Supreme Court.

The Imo State-born Justice Mary Ukaego Odili (62 years), who would have stood as the second justice from the South-East, currently represents Rivers State by virtue of her marriage to former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili.

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