Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Nigerian Supreme Court on trial on charges of money laundering and passport fraud was freed on Friday by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. Ngwuta was one of the judges whose houses were raided by men of Department of State Services in 2016.
He was subsequently brought before a court on 13 counts charges of money laundering by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Citing a previous ruling of Court of Appeal while dismissing the case, Justice John Tosho ruled that the pre-condition for instituting charges against a judicial officer were not met before Justice Ngwuta was brought to court.
The Lagos division of the court of appeal had in a ruling delivered on December 12, 2017 which was the ground for Justice Tosho’s Judgement, dismissed corruption charges instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC against a serving judge on the basis that a serving judge could not be investigated or prosecuted without being first disciplined by the National Judicial Council.
Kanu Agabi (SAN), who was counsel to Justice Ngwuta argued that by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, and the provision of section 158 subsection 1 and paragraph 21(8) of the third schedule of the constitution, the charges against his clients were incompetent.
He maintained that the complaints which formed the basis of the charges instituted against the Supreme Court judge should have been directed to the NJC which should have discipline Ngwuta, before the government can institute the charges.