Justice Ngwuta: Court, DSS disagree over actual amount tendered as exhibit
The Federal High Court, Abuja Division, has disagreed with the Department of State Security Services (DSS) over the exact amount of money admitted into evidence in the ongoing trial of the Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
Recall that the said money, which was allegedly recovered from the home of Justice Ngwuta by the DSS during a raid on his residence on October 7, last year, was presented before the court in bags on Thursday and consequently admitted in evidence as exhibit against the Justice.
Following its admittance, the presiding Judge, Justice John Tsoho, directed that the money be deposited in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), pending the outcome of the case.
However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, Justice Tsoho announced that he was informed that the naira denomination in the court’s custody was different from the amount the witness had called on Thursday while giving evidence.
“I am just receiving the information that there was a problem with the exhibit, because the amount announced by the prosecution in respect to Exhibit 11 should have been N35, 358,000, but when counted, it was N35, 335, 840.
“So, it does not agree with what the witness said, as there appears to be a shortfall,” the Judge said. However, during cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), the witness, Mr. John Utazi, an operative of the DSS, insisted that the amount was N35, 358,000.
“I am not aware of any discrepancy between the money I recovered and the money tendered in court.“My Lord, I stand by what I delivered to the court on Thursday, because I meticulously counted the money before bringing it forward to the court,” the witness held.
Utazi also told the court that his team left some insignificant amount of monies at Ngwuta’s residence after searching the place, because they got tired of counting the money they found.
“There were pieces of monies that we left behind, because we could not take all the money. After counting and counting, we were tired, but what we left behind cannot be matched with what was taken away,” he noted.
When Agabi sought to know whom the money they recovered belonged to, the witness said that ownership of the money was for the court to determine. He added that he did not know the origin of the money contained in the charge against Ngwuta.
The prosecution counsel, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, prayed the court for an adjournment, since there was no need to re-examine the witness. She stated that the next witness the prosecution intended to call was absent in court, because he was bereaved. She also believed an adjournment was necessary to enable appropriate officers move the money to the CBN, as was ordered by the court.
“When they finished counting the money on Thursday, it was late to convey it to the CBN, since the bank had closed and to avoid that, we want to close early since the exhibit was kept in court, pending the end of today’s proceedings.” The Judge had adjourned the matter till July 3 for continuation of trial.