- Judge Earns N24m Annually, Spent N500m in 10 Months –AGF
The Federal Government on Wednesday said investigations had shown that a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, spent over N500m between January and October 2016 despite his total annual legitimate earnings, including his allowances being N24m.
This was disclosed in a document prepared by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, summarising the case of the prosecution against the Justice of the Supreme Court, who was on November 21, 2016, arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
During his arraignment, Ngwuta pleaded not guilty to 16 counts, including money laundering and others relating to fraudulent obtainment of multiple passports.
The document, prepared in anticipation that the prosecution would be allowed to open its case on Wednesday, stated that the case brought against the judge, “chronicles corrupt enrichment, violations of the money laundering laws of our land, passport fraud, and an attempt to obstruct justice by a judicial officer”.
The prosecution alleged that from the N500m, the apex court justice transferred dollar equivalent of N313m cash in $100 bills to a building contractor within the period of nine months between January and September, 2016, to “develop several landed properties” for him.
It explained that earlier in 2015, the defendant, within a period of one month, made various cash payments totalling $180,000 to the building contractor.
It also alleged that during the raid on the defendant’s Abuja house by the operatives of the Department of State Services on October 7, 2016, total sums of N38.358m, $319,596 and £25,915 were found in his possession.
According to the prosecution, the Justice of the apex court gave no satisfactory explanation for the huge sums of money found in his possession.
The document partly read, “Another witness will testify before this court that the defendant’s total annual income, including allowances in 2016 amounted to approximately N24,000,000.
“It beggars belief how a serving public servant could have under his direct control, in a 10-month period spanning between January and October alone, cash sums in excess of N500,000,000.”
Adeogun-Philips said proposed prosecution witnesses would also appear in court to testify over the huge funds found in possession of the defendant, among other allegations.
The document stated, “In the course of this trial, the Federal Republic of Nigeria will adduce evidence from a building contractor engaged by the defendant, as to how in a period of nine months, spanning between January and September 2016, he received the total sum of N313,000,000 from the defendant in cash, which was paid to him mostly in $100 bills to develop landed properties for the defendant.
“This court will also hear from another witness, how in his capacity as an architect engaged by the defendant in 2015, he received from the defendant within a period of one month, various cash payments totalling $180,000.
“Investigators will further tell this honourable court how during a search at his residence on October 7, 2016, cash totalling: (1) N35,358,000 (2) $319,956 and £25,915 were found in the defendant’s possession.”
The prosecution alleged that the defendant had betrayed “the judicial oath of allegiance to discharge his duties as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, faithfully, with honesty, and to the best of his abilities”, which he swore to on June 23, 2011 when he was promoted to the Supreme Court bench.
The prosecuting lawyer also stated that he would lead evidence on how the defendant, on October 9, 2016, a day after being granted administrative bail by the DSS in Abuja, prevailed on a potential prosecution witness on the telephone to help him to move some bags containing title documents of landed assets and N27m cash away from his house in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Adeogun-Philips stated, “The court will, in the course of this trial, hear how the defendant, having been confronted with the maze of evidence against him, following the search of his official residence in Abuja and his subsequent arrest on October 7, 2016, and oblivious of being under DSS surveillance, prevailed on a potential prosecution witness following his release on administrative bail on October 9, 2016, to remove from his bathroom at his private residence in Ebonyi State several bags containing several land title documents and the sum of N27m cash.
“The evidence will also reveal how the defendant ordered the same witness to remove three luxury vehicles from his residence following which the said vehicles were subsequently concealed at various locations in Ebonyi State in an attempt to obstruct ongoing investigations in this case.”
He also said the evidence to be led by the prosecution would reveal “how the defendant, deliberately misled the Nigeria Immigration Service into issuing him four valid passports – two diplomatic and two standard Nigerian passports – having previously declared to the said service on oath that he had lost two of these passports”.
“The defendant was later found with all four passports during a search at his residence on October 7, 2016,” the prosecution stated.
Adeogun-Philips added, “It is for these reasons that the defendant is standing trial before this honourable court today. By the end of this trial, I am confident that the prosecution would have established beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is indeed guilty of the offences charged.”
The prosecution was scheduled to call its first set of witnesses against Justice Ngwuta on Wednesday, but the defendant, through his lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), begged the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, to further adjourn the case to afford him (Ngwuta) more time to prepare for his defence.
He said his client was eager to defend himself, “But unfortunately we still have a lot to do to be sufficiently ready.”
He cited section 36(6) of the constitution which he said entitled any person accused of criminal offences to be given the “time and facilities” to defend himself.
He said, “There are some documents we still need to access from the prosecution. Under our constitution the defendant should be given enough time.
“I urge your lordship to direct the prosecution to avail us of all the documents they intend to use so that we can be fully prepared.”
Prosecutor opposes adjournment
But Adeogun-Philips, who said a lot of resources had been expended to bring three of the prosecution witnesses to court on Wednesday, opposed the application for adjournment.
He opposed the application on the grounds that both parties had on November 21, after the arraignment of the defendant, consented to the commencement of the trial on Wednesday.
Insisting that all the documents the prosecution would use had been front-loaded and served on the defendant along with the charges, he added that the application for adjournment also violated section 396(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, “which provides for day-to-day trial upon arraignment until the conclusion of trial.”
He also said the adjournment would also violate the provisions of the court’s Practice Direction 2013.
He suggested that if the court was willing to grant the adjournment, the prosecution should be allowed to call its witness and give the defence another date to cross-examine the witness.
Defence lawyer seeks adjournment
Responding on point of law, Agabi said day-to-day trial was impracticable and that under section 396(4) of ACJA, the defendant was entitled to seek adjournment five times throughout the period of the trial in the event of the impracticability of day-to-day trial.
But ruling, Justice Tsoho agreed with the defence lawyer on the grounds that the provision of the constitution overrides the provision of the ACJA.
He said that the time and facilities which the provision of Section 36(6) of the constitution provides must be afforded the accused person which could extend to “emotional and psychological” readiness.
Nigeria Immigration Service Reopens Portal With New Passport Application and Payment Process
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced the reopening of its passport application and payment portal.
The assistant comptroller of immigration, Mr Amos Okpu announced in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
In the statement, Mr Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of the service, said the portal became effective for new applications from 12 midnight on Tuesday.
Babandede further said that the portal would allow eligible applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of passports of their choice.
Mr Muhammad Babandede explained that with the reopening of the portal, a new passport application and payment regime had begun.
The statement in full:
“The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CGI), Muhammad Babandede MFR, has announced the reopening of the Passport application and payment portal effective 8th June 2021 by 12 midnight to allow eligible Passport applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of Passports of their choice.
The Passport portal was closed following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on the 17th of May, 2021to afford the Service the opportunity to clear all backlogs of applications that have piled up across Issuing Centres in the past few months.
With the reopening of the portal, a new Passport application and payment regime have commenced. Under the new Passport regime;
Applications and payments for Passport services shall be made through the Service website www.immigration.gov.ng;
- applicants are expected to visit the portal to apply and upload their support documents for vetting and processing;
- a chat room facility to guide applicants through the application and payment process has been provided on the portal;
- upon successful applications, applicants shall make their online booking interview/enrollment appointment on any day, time and location they consider convenient;
- that the new timeline for Passport production and issuance after a successful enrollment at the selected Issuing Centre shall be six weeks for Fresh applications and three weeks for Re-issue (Renewal applications);
- that no applicant who is yet to make an online application and payment shall be allowed into any of the Passport Issuing Centres for Passport processing;
- applicants will be contacted through email and phone number they provided during application when their Passports are ready;
- a helpline with the number 08021819988 has been provided for feedback mechanism on any challenges.
The Comptroller General, Muhammad Babandede MFR wishes to use this medium to call on Nigerians and indeed Passport applicants to avoid patronizing touts as the entire process has been made seamless for effective and efficient service delivery. He warned Passport racketeers to desist from acts capable of undermining the reform efforts to avoid very strict sanctions.
Signed AMOS OKPU MNIPR
ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER OF IMMIGRATION
SERVICE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER
For: COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF IMMIGRATION 8TH JUNE, 2021″
INEC To Publish The List Of New Polling Units Next Week
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to publish a comprehensive list of its new polling units across the nation next week.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja.
Yakubu was speaking at the formal handing over of a new state of the art fire truck, deployed to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja by the Federal Fire Service (FFS).
He said that details of the locations of its registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration for resumption of nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) would be made available in the second week of May.
He expressed appreciation of the commission to the FFS and all security agencies for the demonstration of their support to protecting INEC facilities
He said that the support was coming on the eve of the resumption of the CVR nationwide in the next three weeks.
“We earlier assured Nigerians that we shall conclude work on the expansion of voter access to polling units and make the new polling units available to citizens ahead of the CVR exercise.
“I am glad to report that we have accomplished this task for the first time in 25 years.
“A comprehensive list of the new polling units will be published next week.
“Similarly, details of the locations of the registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration will also be made available after a series of regular consultative meetings with stakeholders next week,” Yakubu said.
He said that as a member of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) FFS had been as concerned as other security agencies about the recent attacks on our offices across the country.
“This is particularly so because out of the 42 attacks on our facilities nationwide, 18 incidents resulted from arson and three more by a combination of arson and vandalisation.”
Yakubu recalled that concerned by those incidents, the commission convened an emergency meeting of ICCES last week of April, where the security agencies renewed their determination to collaborate more with the commission.
According to him, they pledged to assist the commission address the challenge beyond the routine protection of INEC assets and the security of its officials, voters, observers, the media, candidates and their agents during elections.
“On its part, the Federal Fire Service offered to deploy an additional state-of-the-art fire engine to the INEC headquarters to complement the two existing trucks.
“At the same time, it directed its state offices to take additional protective measures around other INEC facilities nationwide.
“Today’s inauguration of the new fire engine is another affirmation of the support to the commission from the FFS whose personnel, already deployed permanently to the commission
“The personnel will continue to operate and maintain the fire engines and other firefighting equipment installed by INEC,” Yakubu said.
Speaking earlier, the Controller-General (CG) of FFS, Alhaji Liman Ibrahim said the deployment of the firefighting truck was premised on recent fire attacks on INEC offices in different parts of the country.
Ibrahim, represented by the Assistant Controller-General of the service, Mr Samson Karebo, said the deployed truck would serve as fire cover for the premises of INEC headquarters and the entire Maitama vicinity of Abuja.
“The FFS is taking this step as a proactive measure to protect our critical infrastructure and help to protect our economy by forming synergy with all stakeholders in protecting our environments.
“Our center is focused on bringing firefighting operations to every part of the country as part of our statutory duties by having a presence in virtually every state in Nigeria
“The FFS will very soon be moving into all senatorial headquarters in the country. That is how we want to operate for now so that we can touch every corner of this country,” Ibrahim said.
He called for the cooperation of all for the service to better serve the nation by not molesting FFS staff in the line of duty.
In his remarks, the National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, who is also Co-Chair of ICCES, described the deployment of the truck as a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to sustain Nigeria’s democracy and address insecurity.
Monguno said that the gesture also symbolised commitment to a clear affirmation of Buhari toward protecting institutions of government, toward securing their property, toward fighting acts of irresponsibility, vandalisation and outright criminality.
“The President is determined as much as he can within the confines of legality to suppress any kind of criminality and destruction of public property.
“This is something that he is determined to do regardless of whatever the challenges are.
“He will apply all the resources in his disposal in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to ensure the wider Nigerian society is safe, stable and is allowed to carry out its legitimate undertaking, free from any act of insecurity,” he said
Monguno urged all other security agencies not to relent in ensuring that they continued to protect lives and property.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba pledged commitment to security agencies to work with INEC and protect INEC’s facilities, citizens’ life and property.
Also at the occasion was the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Director of Joint Services, Mr Peter Obodo; as well as the representative of Director-General, Directorate of State Services, Tony Adikweruka.
Recovered Assets: Ad-hoch Committee Gives Emefiele, Others 72 Hours Ultimatum
The House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, investigating recovered assets, has given the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, 72 hours to appear before it.
The committee also issued same ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, and the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh.
The summon was issued on Monday, after Mr Emefiele and the others failed to appear before the committee.
The government officials had sent representatives, but the committee chairman, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), said they failed to forward letters to that effect.
He said allowing representatives without a proper letter of introduction would be akin to allowing “impersonators.”
“You are indirectly insulting the House of Representatives. You are undermining the House of Representatives,” an angry Mr Adeogun said.
Moving a motion to give the agencies 72hours to appear before the committee, Ibrahim Isiaka (APC, Ogun), said the agencies created by Acts of the parliament “should not be undermining the parliament”.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the committee.
Mr Isiaka suggested that the House should shut down its activities if the agencies fail to appear before them.
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