THE criminal trial of Sylvester Ngwuta, a suspended justice of the Supreme Court, at the federal high court, Abuja was on Wednesday, December 7, stalled on allegation of untimely service of `trial processes’ on the defence team.
Kanu Agabi, SAN, defence lead counsel, had filed an oral motion seeking adjournment in order to obtain and go through documentary evidence against Ngwuta. Agabi said that the prosecution team served him with the complete process few days ago, adding that he required time to study the document.
Philips Adeogun, the prosecuting counsel, opposed the application, saying the defence team was served all relevant processes required to kick start the trial.
“It was based on the assurance that we had satisfied our obligations that we brought our witnesses to court. Indeed, we are taken aback that the defendant counsel would move this retrogressive motion. We pray the court to dismiss it.
“After all the Administration of Criminal Justice Act compels accelerated hearing of criminal matters such as this,” Adeogun said.
John Tsoho, presiding judge, in granting the adjournment noted that the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act allowed five adjournments on instances of all parties.
He noted that Section 396 of the Act gave wider room for persons charged for criminal offence to be availed the allowance to prepare for trial.
“This opportunity also extends to the psychological and emotion disposition of the defendant.
“However, no defendant that is worth his or her salt would allow criminal charges to hang around him or her. This application has merit and it is upheld.
“The defence team is obliged time to use this period to study the charges, evidence and all other document related to the case,” he said.
Tsoho, therefore, adjourned the case saying it would now run between January 18 and January 23.
Ngwuta, was on November 21 arraigned before the court on a 16-count charge including money laundering and judicial misconduct. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The National Judicial Council had suspended Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, his colleague, and five other federal judges on allegations of fraud.
The seven were arrested by the SSS who raided their homes on October 7 and 8 and allegedly discovered large sums of money.
In the charge sheet, the prosecution stated that Ngwuta illegally kept N35, 358, 000.00 at home, contrary to the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
The prosecution also accused the judge of illegally retaining in his possession $319,596.00 and 25, 915 pounds among others.
— Dec 7, 2016 @ 18:30 GMT