A clearer picture emerged Tuesday on how security officials allegedly recovered huge cash in the Abuja home of Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
Two officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) – Tanimola Alao and John Utazi – took turn to explain their roles in the processes leading to the recovery of the cash and how Justice Ngwuta voluntarily offered statement to investigators.
Led in evidence by lead prosecuting lawyer, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, Alao and Utazi testified as the 4th and 5th prosecution witnesses in the trial before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Ngwuta is standing trial for corruption, money laundering, and possession of multiple travel passports, among others.
Utazi, who said he led the team of DSS officials to the judge’s house at the Supreme Court Quarters, said they had initially encountered difficulty in accessing the house until the policemen on guard were directed by their superiors to give way.
He said when they were allowed in on October 7 last year, his team met the judge at home.
The DSS official said, “I introduced myself and my team members to him and we showed the defendant our identity cards. 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 which we told the defendant that we were ready to conduct the search.
“He took us upstairs. There were four rooms and a sitting room upstairs. The four rooms included the defendant’s study. He took us to the first bedroom. We started searching while he sat on a seat.
“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. When the wardrobe was opened, we saw several bags and they were filled with foreign currencies.
“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.”
Utazi said his team did not find any incriminating item in other parts of the house, including the fourth bedroom, the ground floor (where the two rooms and two sitting rooms located), the boys’ quarters and the car park.
He added: “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 followed us.”