By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
A Justice of the Supreme Court, Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, is dead. A statement by the Chief Registrar of the court, Hadizatu Mustapha, disclosed that the Ebonyi State-born jurist died around 2.30am, yesterday.
“He felt sick and was admitted in the last one week in the National Hospital, Abuja, but before he was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital on Friday, March 5 he tested negative to COVID-19 investigative test conducted on him,” the statement added.
Remarkably, Justice Ngwuta passed on about 23 days to his retirement from the bench of the apex court.
According to the statement, “Hon. Justice Ngwuta was due to retire from the Supreme Court bench on attaining mandatory retirement age of 70 years on March 30, 2021.
“His remains have been deposited in the National Hospital mortuary pending the arrangement for his burial”.
The late jurist, who was elevated to the Supreme Court on March 22, 2011, was born on March 30, 1951 in Amofia-Ukawu, Onicha Local Government of Ebonyi State.
He had his basic education in the Eastern part of Nigeria and got his LLB in the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), lle-ife in 1977 and BL at the Nigerian Law School in 1978.
It will be recalled that Justice Ngwuta was among eight superior court judges that were arrested after a sting operation the Department of State Service, DSS, conducted in October 2016.
He was subsequently arraigned on a 13-count corruption charge.
However, the Federal High Court in Abuja, in a judgement it delivered on March 23, 2018, struck out the charge after it held that the Federal Government failed to fulfill the condition precedent that is required before a serving judicial officer could be arrested or charged to court over corruption related offences.
Besides, the court stressed that some of the allegations the Federal Government levelled against him were vague.
He was, therefore, discharged and acquitted of the charge.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with family and friends of Justice Ngwuta.
The President in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu in Abuja, yesterday said he joined people and government of Ebonyi State, Nigeria Bar Association and members of the Bench in mourning the legal luminary, regretting that the death of the eminent justice will leave a gap in the Supreme Court, considering his experience and dedication to interpretation of the constitution.
President Buhari said he believed Justice Ngwuta lived and served the country with his knowledge of the law.