A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday learnt how the Department of State Services (DSS) operatives conducted a search on the Abuja residence of the Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, on October 7, 2016.
Led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, an operative of DSS, John Utazi, who testified as the fifth prosecution witness in the on-going trial of Justice Ngwuta, said bags, filled with local and foreign currencies, were uncovered during the search of the judge’s house.
The DSS Staff Officer said other items also uncovered in the house were documents, including building plans, land documents, vehicle papers and bank statements.
He told the court, presided over by Justice John Tsoho that the policemen and private security guards assigned to the Supreme Court Quarters, where Justice Ngwuta’s residence is located, initially did not let him and other operatives into the premises until the guards got approval of their “superiors”.
According to him, when he and his team members were eventually let into the residence, the defendant declined an offer to search all the operatives in the team before commencing the operation.
The witness said, “I also gave him the search warrant to read, after which he asked us if the Chief Justice of Nigeria was aware. “I answered that I was not aware. Thereafter, I requested the defendant to search me and members of my team. He declined and said there was no trouble.
“However, I asked my team members to search one another in his presence. After, we told the defendant that we were ready to conduct the search.”
Utaz said his team uncovered huge cash sums in some bags kept in the wardrobes in one of the rooms and other cash in foreign currencies in another room, adding, “He took us to the first bedroom. There were two wardrobes in the room. One was by a closet and the other was facing the closet. As we opened the one facing the closet, there were bags. We opened the bags and asked the defendant to see the content. The content was money. The second wardrobe was concealed with a cloth.”
On what was found in the second wardrobe after it was opened, the witness said, “When the wardrobe was opened, we saw a lot of bags and filled with foreign currencies”, adding, “He took us to another bedroom. We searched it again and we also discovered money. After the second bedroom, he took us to his study.
“In the study room, we recovered bank statements, building plans, land documents, documents relating to the defendant’s salary and some vehicle papers.” He said his team also searched the kitchen, the boys’ quarters and the car park on the premises but nothing incriminating was discovered.
Utaz further said, “We brought down the items recovered to the sitting room downstairs, where we counted the money. We documented everything on the back of the search warrant.
“The documentation was done in his presence. I endorsed the documented items recovered and also gave it to him to see. After seeing it, he read through and signed on it. Thereafter, I assembled all items recovered and told the defendant to search us just like we did when we came in.
“The defendant declined to search us but we searched ourselves in the presence of the defendant. We then requested the defendant to follow us and he did follow us.”
The search warrant, dated October 5, 2016, issued by a Magistrates’ Court in Abuja, was tendered by the prosecuting counsel and admitted by Justice Tsoho as an exhibit.
The case was fixed for Wednesday to enable the lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), to cross-examine the witness.