President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the death of Sylvester Ngwuta, a Justice of the Supreme Court, who passed on in the early hours of Sunday.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that Mr Ngwuta died at 69 just about three weeks to his retirement from the bench on March 30, when he ought to clock 70.
Mr Buhari’s government prosecuted Mr Ngwuta as a serving judge for various charges including money laundering between 2017 and 2019.
But a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Sunday that Mr Buhari believed that the deceased lived and served the country with his knowledge of the law.
The President added that Mr Ngwuta’s death would leave a gap in the Supreme Court, considering his experience and dedication to interpretation of the constitution.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari condoles with family and friends of Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, who passed away early hours of Sunday in Abuja.
“The President joins the people and government of Ebonyi State, Nigeria Bar Association and members of the Bench in mourning the legal luminary, regretting that the death of the eminent Justice will leave a gap in the Supreme Court, considering his experience and dedication to interpretation of the constitution.
“President Buhari believes Justice Ngwuta lived and served the country with his knowledge of the law.
“The President prays that the Almighty God will accept the soul of the departed, and comfort his family.”
Ngwuta’s prosecution and recall
Mr Buhari’s government charged Mr Ngwuta with money laundering and passport fraud at the Federal High Court in Abuja and with asset declaration breaches at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in 2017.
The trials only came to an end after a judgment of the Court of Appeal ruled in 2018 that a serving judge could not be prosecuted unless the judicial officer had been investigated and sanctioned by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Mr Ngwuta’s house and those of some other judges had earlier been raided by the operatives of the State Security Service in October 2016.
He and the affected judges were then placed on suspension following the request by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, preparatory to their trial which did not start until 2017.
Mr Ngwuta remained on suspension up till the time his trials were terminated in 2018.
He was only recalled in 2019 by the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, who stepped into office in acting capacity in January 2019.
After his recall from suspension, Mr Ngwuta partook in many governorship election cases.
He was part of the seven-man panel that delivered the controversial January 14, 2020 judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Imo State governor and replaced him with Hope Uzodinma of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Ngwuta was also on the seven-man panel that upheld the second term victory of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State on August 31, 2020.
He was also part of the panel that affirmed the elections of Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State on January 20, 2020.
He was similarly part of the panel that upheld the elections of Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State in the judgments delivered on January 21, 2020.
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