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CCT to rule on Supreme Court Justice’s trial March 21

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will on March 21, 2018 deliver ruling on the competence of the criminal charge brought against the Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta by the Federal government on charges of false assets declaration.

The tribunal fixed the date after taking arguments from counsel to the apex court justice and that of the Federal government on the propriety or otherwise of the charge.

Ngwa through his counsel Mr. Kanu Agabi SAN had in a motion on notice filed on January 9 prayed the tribunal to invoke section 158(1) of the 1999 constitution to dismiss the 10-count criminal charges against him.

His ground was that as at the time the alleged offence was committed, he was a serving justice of the Supreme Court, hence a serving judicial officer within the purview of section 318 of the constitution.

The apex court justice insisted that by the combined effects of section 158 of the constitution and paragraph 21 of the third schedule to the constitution, any complaint or allegation of misconduct against him must first be referred to the National Judicial Council (NJC) empowered by law to exercise disciplinary control over him.

He maintained that the allegations which brought about the criminal charge against him were never referred to the NJC as required by the constitution, hence, the charge not competent in law.

Ngwuta cited the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Hon. Justice Nganjiwa versus Federal Republic of Nigeria where the appellate court held that no criminal investigation or prosecution can be initiated or instituted in any court of law or tribunal against a serving judicial officer for judicial misconduct without first presenting the allegation to the NJC and a determination made.

Maintaining that the allegations against him were never made available to the NJC as required by law, the defendant said that the charge was incompetent and that the tribunal lack jurisdiction to entertain it.

However counsel to the federal government and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mr. Abeni Mohammed vehemently opposed the application and urged the tribunal to dismiss it in its entirety.

The senior counsel submitted that the claim of judicial officer was misconceived by the defendant adding that Ngwuta was put on trial at the CCT as a public office holder and not as a judicial officer.

Beside, Mohammed said that the finality of the Appeal Court decision relied upon by the defendant has not been tested at the Supreme Court.

“The Defendant is here as a public officer to face charges against him and not as a judicial officer. He is here as Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta and not as Hon. Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta. It is not derogatory, that is what the law says” the counsel argued.

Mohammed insisted that the decision of the appeal court on the judicial officers in relation to section 158 of the 1999 constitution was not application to the trial of the defendant because of peculiar circumstances and asked the tribunal to assume jurisdiction.

Chairman of the tribunal Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar later fixed March 21 for ruling in the motion.

The Federal government had last year slammed a 10-count charge against the Supreme Court justice on false assets declaration.

The charge has however suffered series of adjournments at the instance of the Federal government due to non-availability of witnesses to establish the case.

Sunday Olatunji
Dele Fashomi, seasoned journalist and communication teacher, is a holder of Master of Arts degree in Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan in 1992/93. Earlier, he had bagged a Bachelor degree from the same university in 1984, after which he proceeded to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, in 1990, for a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. He had done many courses in communication, including the EU-BBC Editing Course in 2002. Mr. Fashomi combines effectively the practice, research and teaching of communication. And to date, he has published two academic works in communication: Issues in Communication Technology and Policy (2010) and Economic and Social Issues in Advertising and PR (2013). He had his first break in the Nigerian media in Concord Newspapers in 1990 and today, he has over two and half decades experience earned in several newspapers. He has been part of many start-ups, such as The Republic (1987), The Comet (1999), The Anchor 2001 - 2002; Sun Newspapers (2003); Westerner newsmagazine (2005 - 2010) as Editor; National Life (2011) as Sunday Editor, and Newswatch Newspapers (2012- 2016) as Daily Editor. Dele Fashomi is now the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of newspaper online, which he started in July 2015. He is also into biography writing, with many books in his trail, some of which he wrote alone and one he co- authored with his mentor, Mr Dare Babarinsa, entitled:  Olabiyi Durojaiye - DARE TO BE DiFFERENT. He also guided and collaborated with Pa Olatunji Odusanya in writing his autobiography - AGAINST ALL ODDS. There are many other books in the works under his pen.