An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday dismissed the 13-count charge of fraud brought against a Supreme Court justice, Sylvester Ngwuta.
Ngwuta was arraigned by the federal government, after his house and the residences of six other judges were raided by operatives of the State Security Service in October 2016.
The trial judge, John Tsoho, said the prosecution ought to have first ensured the discipline of the defendant by the National Judicial Council, before filing a suit against him. Tsoho’s decision followed a similar judgement by the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court in December 2017.
The appellate court, in the said judgement, faulted the prosecution for what the court regarded as a negation of Section 158 (1) of the 1999 constitution which empowers the NJC with the responsibility of punishing erring judicial officers.
Following that judgement, in a case involving a Federal High Court judge, Hyeldzira Nganji Ngwuta’s lawyer Kanu Agabi, approached the court with a request that the ruling renders charges against his client null and void.
Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation, said the decision of the higher court rendered the charges against his client primarily defective.
The court granted all the prayers sought by the defendant.
That appeal court ruling was faulted by many Nigerians and activists who said it meant judges enjoyed some form of immunity from prosecution not envisaged by the constitution.
But since the ruling was by a higher court, the high court in the case of Mr. Ngwuta was bound to respect it.