- Court fixes March 23 for ruling on motion to strike out suit
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Prosecution counsel, Olufemi Fatunde, in the trial of Supreme Court judge, Sylvester Ngwuta, wednesday conceded that nine out of the 13 count charge 9 preferred against the defendant were no longer relevant in view of the Court of Appeal decision in Justice Nganjiwa case.
The federal government had arraigned Justice Ngwuta before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on a 16-count charge bordering on corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes but later amended the charges to 13.
Fatunde who made the concession yesterday, at the resumed trial while responding to the defendantâ€™s application seeking to quash the entire charge, however urged the court to continue with the trial on the merit of the remaining four charges.
The prosecution counsel told the court that she would not pretend that the trial court is not bound by the decision of the superior court, nor will she urge the court to act in conflict with the law.
She said: â€œBut with greatest respect I will point out two major aspect of the court of appeal decision in Ngajiwa case that goes to the root of the charge.â€
Fatunde argued that offences committed by judicial officer, raise question whether they were committed during the course of performance of his official duties.
â€œIf the court finds that they were committed outside the performance of his official duty, then it was right to have arrested and prosecuted him without recourse to National Judicial Council (NJC)â€, she said
Fatunde submitted that counts 3, 10,11and 13 could be prosecuted against the defendant without recourse to NJC, assuming without conceding that the other offences charged were committed in the discharge of his official duty.
She urged the trial court to note that Court of Appeal recognised the fact in Justice Nganjiwa case that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) did not make expressed provision as to whether judicial officer should be discipline first by NJC before prosecution.
She therefore urged the court to discountenanced the defendantâ€™s objection and continue with the hearing of the matter till conclusion if not all the counts, at least, of counts 3,10,11,13.
Responding, defence counsel, led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), thanked the prosecution counsel for her courage in conceding nine counts out of 13 counts.
Kanu argued that it was only the NJC that determine, â€œwhether an offence is committed by judicial officer during the performance of official duty or outside their official duty.â€
The senior advocate stated that in the instant case, the NJC was not given the chance first to make that decision.
Arguing further, Kanu said the dignity of the office of a judge is violated if he is arraigned while he holds that title.
â€œThat is the essence of the judgment. Remove the title before submitting him to trial,â€ he said.
He stated that if the prosecution has already conceded to nine of the counts, then the remaining should be struck out, stressing that the justice in Nganjiwaâ€™s case should not be lost.
Kanu noted that the prosecutionâ€™s submission also upheld the court to strike out the entire counts.
Justice Tsoho after taking the submissions of the counsel, adjourned till March 23 for ruling on the application seeking to strike out the charge.