This year’s legal year ceremonies witnessed the appearance of a senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta.
He is making official appearance for the first time since November 2016. Justice Ngwuta participated in activities marking the commencement of the court’s new legal year.
Fully dressed in the official robe, Justice Ngwuta is sited among other Justices of the court even as 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 NJC that judicial officers, who were being investigated on corruption related allegations, should cease to perform 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 7 and 8, October, 2016.
While his colleague Justice John Okoro resumed duties shortly after the raid, Ngwuta was charged to court. 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.