Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, the third most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, is dead. Justice Ogwuta died in his sleep Sunday morning, about three weeks to his 70th birthday on March 30 when he would be due to retire. Spokesman of the apex court, Ahuraka Isah, who confirmed Ngwuta’s demise, said he had been down with illness for some time, but his condition deteriorated on Thursday and was admitted into the intensive care unit but lost the battle for life.
Isah told an online newspaper that “He has been ill for a while. He was supposed to preside over a matter on Thursday but the illness became severe. He was moved to intensive care unit on Friday. They even conducted COVID-19 test on him but he tested negative. We were already preparing for his valedictory service slated for March 30.”
Recall that Justice Ngwuta was one of the Supreme and Appeal Court Judges who found themselves in the eye of the storm in October 7 and 8, 2016 when men of the department of State Security, DSS carried out mid-night raids on their residences in Abuja and other cities on suspicion of official corruption and questionable deals. The DSS claimed a huge amount of hard currencies were recovered from his home which was suspected to be proceeds of bribery and corruption.
Following his arraignment on 13-count criminal charges bordering on corruption, money laundering, and unlawful possession of multiple international passports, he was asked to step aside from his judicial responsibilities, hence for about three years, he was in limbo. He had in another case, been charged with false declaration of assets by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He was however discharged and acquitted in both cases in 2018 and he returned to his job.
Late Justice Ngwuta was born in 1951 in Amofia-Ukawu, Onicha local government area of Ebonyi State. He got his bachelor’s degree in Law from the then University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) lle-ife in 1977and was called to the bar in 1978 after he finished from the Nigerian Law School.
Justice Ngwuta, Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR began his law practice as a youth corper between August 1978 and October 1979, when he served as a state counsel in the Ministry of Justice, Oturkpo, Benue State. He thereafter went into private legal practice from where he was appointed a judge of the High Court, Abia State, in October 1995. He was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal May 22, 2011, and was elevated as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in May 2013.
Amongst notable cases he presided over at the Supreme Court were the Ondo and Ekiti States governorship election petitions in which Olusegun Mimiko and Kayode Fayemi were affirmed as governors-elect of their states in May 2013 and June 2013 respectively. He was supported by Justices Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, present chief justice of Nigeria, CJN and Suleiman Galadima.
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