Three years after he was suspended from sitting, a Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who faced trial for corruption, has resumed his official duties.
Fully dressed in the official robe, Justice Ngwuta was sited yesterday among other justices of the court, at the inauguration of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) in the Supreme Court’s ceremonial courtroom.
Justice Ngwuta, now one of the most senior Justices of the Supreme Court, has not sat in open court since November 4, 2016 following a directive by the National Judicial Council (NJC) that judicial officers being investigated on corruption-related allegations should cease to perform their judicial functions until the conclusion of investigation.
He was one of the two Justices of the Supreme Court, whose houses were raided, among other judges, by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) between October 7 and 8, 2016.
He is the third most senior judge on the bench of the apex court behind
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour is the second most senior and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, who is the first.
The DSS had claimed that it found hard currencies believed to be proceeds of corruption in his residence.
He was asked to step aside from his duties, though his salary was not stopped, to face charges of money laundering brought against him at a federal high court in Abuja.
He was first arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on corruption related charges and later, arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), over his alleged failure to declare some of his assets.
Both charges were filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
On March 23, 2018, the Federal High Court upheld his challenge of the competence of the charge and discharged him.
Justice John Tsoho, in a ruling, relied on the Court of Appeal decision in the appeal by Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa (of the Federal High Court) and held that it was wrong to subject Justice Ngwuta’s trial before his court, without first, subjecting him to the disciplinary procedure of the NJC.
On May 15, 2018 the CCT also held in similar manner and struck out the charge against Justice Ngwuta.
Since the last decision by the CCT, Justice Ngwuta has not resumed normal judicial functions. He has not been sighted sitting as a member of any panel of the court.
However, the CCT overruled itself on this precedence in the case of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen was found guilty and convicted of false asset declaration in April – without discipline or recommendation by the NJC.