A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a Justice of the Supreme Court, on Friday told Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) replaced Ngwuta’s lost passport because the organization had no cause to doubt the affidavit evidence he deposed to when he reported the loss of the document.
The prosecution witness, Mr Nuhu Tanko Kutana told the court that a new passport was issued to Justice Ngwuta by the Nigerian Immigration Service, having been convinced that he actually lost the first one.
He said Justice Ngwuta failed to report back to the Service when he allegedly found his missing passport and also started using same.
“As at the time we replaced the lost passport, we have no reason to doubt the report by a Justice of the Supreme Court who swore to an affidavit. People report back to the authority of lost passport and we issue new one after following due process,” he told Justice Tsoho, while under cross-examination by defence counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN).
Kutana also told the court that the immigration rules made allowance for a genuine mistake, but in the instant case, the defendant cannot be said to have made a genuine mistake.
The witness further informed the court, that his forensic report showed that Justice Ngwuta was using the two standard passports interchangeable, at the time of his arrest on October 7, 2016, by the operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).
Ordinarily, he said the Supreme Court Justice who is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on charges of money laundering and breach of trust ought to have returned the recovered passport to the Nigerian Immigration Service when it was found.
The witness who confirmed that four diplomatic passports and two standard passports were found in the possession of the defendant said that his forensic analysis on the six passports did not show evidence of forgery.
“I did the analysis on the six passports to determine whether there was a forgery and by the time I concluded my analysis of the passports, I found no evidence of forgery in any of them,” he also told the court.
Kutana, however, admitted that he did not meet or interrogate the defendant during the cause of his analysis so as to obtain his own side of the story because it was not needed.
He said, “There are circumstances under which a citizen can have more than one passport, but not two same passports at the same time as in the instant case.
“I ascribe illegality on the two standard passports found with the defendant because the defendant ought to have returned one of the passports to the immigration,” he told the court.
The court adjourned further trial till October 20, 2017.
Justice Ngwuta is facing a 13-count charge, including money laundering allegations of retention and concealment of various sums of money in local and foreign currencies, allegedly recovered from him during the raid of the operatives of the DSS on October 8, 2016, in a “sting operation” that involved seven Judges.
The Supreme Court Justice was among the seven Judges that were arrested between October 7 and 8, 2016 after the DSS raided their homes in what was termed “a sting operation.”
Ngwuta was alleged to have retained in his possession millions of naira and huge sums of money, in hard currencies, contrary to the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).
It was also alleged that he obtained multiple passports contrary to Section 10 of the Immigration Act, 2015 and punishable under the same Section.
He was alleged to have made a false statement to the passport office concerning his date of birth for the purpose of procuring an additional Diplomatic Passport for himself.
Justice Ngwuta pleaded not guilty to all the charges slammed against him by the Federal Government and has been granted bail by the court.