Alex Enumah in Abuja
The trial of a Supreme Court judge, Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta, for corruption-related offences suffered a setback yesterday when Charles Adeogun-Philips, the counsel engaged from International Criminal Court (ICC) by the federal government to conduct the prosecution withdrew unceremoniously.
Ngwuta is being prosecuted by the federal government on a 16-count charge of alleged corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes.
Adeogun-Philips was engaged for the high profile corruption case due to his wide experience in criminal matters at the ICC.
He, however, gave no reason for his withdrawal.
But a source however, said the anger of the lawyer might have been provoked by an alleged uncooperative attitude of the federal government which brought the complain of corruption against the apex court judge.
At the resumed trial yesterday, the lawyer informed the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, that he was withdrawing his appearance in the matter for his client.
Subsequently, Hajara Yusuf, informed the court that she would be appearing for the government pending the constitution of a new prosecution team.
She told the court that the prosecution was prepared for the day’s business which is the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness and which the court obliged.
Although Justice Tsoho did not inquire into what informed the action of the counsel, he however showered encomiums on him for having the courtesy to physically come before the court to announce his withdrawal.
Similarly, defence counsel commended Adeogun-Philips on how he had conducted himself so far in the matter, describing him as a gentleman and wish him well in his future endeavours.
However, under cross-examination by Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to the defendant, the prosecution witness, Chukwuebuka Linus, informed the court that he believed the job he was contracted to do by the defendant was legitimate.
He also said he would not have accepted payment for his services if he had suspected the money were proceeds of crime, adding that he went ahead with the job after the defendant explained the sources of his money.
When asked if he reported Ngwuta to the police or any security agency he said no.
Also, when asked if anyone had complained about the vehicles and monies he claimed to have moved out of Ngwuta’s residence, he answered in the negative.
While he told the court that he was arrested and detained for seven days, he however, stated that he has not been charged with any offence, adding that he did not considered his detention justified.
When asked if he made statement during his detention and how many, he said he only remembered making statements in the first and second day of his detention.
When put before him that the job he undertook for Justice Ngwuta was done in the open and that Ngwuta did not attempt to hide his wealth, he said yes, adding that even his own document on the transaction were in the open and there was nothing illegal in them. He also admitted to having trust and respect for the defendant, particularly throughout the period of his engagement.
At this stage, Agabi told the court he had no further questions for the witness.
However, when the prosecution was called upon to re-examine the witness, she however requested for a short adjournment to enable the prosecution constitute a new team.
The matter has been adjourned to February 13.