A 1951- born Nigerian jurist and serving justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta on Thursday gave a graphic detail of how his house in Abuja was raided by men of the Department of State Service (DSS) in the night of October 7, how huge sums of monies in local and foreign currencies were allegedly planted and recovered in his house and how he was allegedly ordered to sign an inventory list at gunpoint before he was arrested over what he later learnt to be alleged involvement in corrupt practices.
Justice Ngwuta who documented his account in a report he forwarded to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, in apparent protest against his alleged shabby treatment as a justice of the Supreme Court by men of the DSS said he had thought that there was a coup in the country and the constitution had been suspended given the way his rights were infringed with recklessness on the night of October 7 through 8 before he was granted administrative bail upon the intervention of the CJN.
He admitted that though the DSS operatives recovered some monies in his house which he claimed he legitimately earned, he however denied ownership of certain humongous foreign currencies which they claimed to have also recovered from his bags in the same house, alleging it was a plant.
Justice Ngwuta who said the bundles of foreign currencies they purportedly recovered from his bag and shown to him left him speechless but that he had to sign the inventory list authenticating that all that were contained on it were recovered from his house simply for fear of being killed by gunmen whom he claimed pointed the weapons at him from all directions.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that the DSS had on October 8, at a press conference in Abuja said it recovered mind-boggling N93, 558,000.00, $530,087, £25,970, €5,680, from the residences of only three judges after a sting operation.
Although the DSS refused to release the details of the amount recovered, a newspaper (The Nation)said it was able to scoop out some figures against the names of some of the judges.
Details of monies recovered from the judges were:
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of Abuja Federal High Court
Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Ghana Cedis —-20
John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Summary of money recovered by DSS from the raided judges
Naira—N93, 558, 000.00
Apart from Justice Okoro who admitted that the DSS actually recovered the said monies listed against his name from his house and justified how he earned them, the two other judicial officers had either kept quiet about the said monies or denied ownership, insinuating they were planted in their houses to incriminate them.
Justice Ngwuta in his 7-page report dated October 18 and accompanied by a verifying affidavit also gave a vivid account of how he was held incommunicado in his house and thereafter before his release came on Sunday night.
His account is intriguing. Sit back and enjoy it:
“Some days before Friday, 7th October, 2016, I started feeling symptoms of malaria attack. Any malaria drug keeps me drowsy and sleeping for days and since I had to go to work I decided to hang on until Friday to take the drug after work.
“I returned from work late Friday afternoon, had a meal and took the medication I got from Dr. Ukah of the Supreme Court Medical Centre.
“By 7.30 pm, I was already in bed having switched off my hand sets. After a little while, my house maid knocked on the door to my bedroom. “I reluctantly dragged myself to the door. She told me that a group of people wanted to see me. I told her to inform whoever wanted to see me that night that I do not see visitors in the night, that they could come to see me in day time.
“ I went back to sleep. I could not tell how long later that I heard knocks on the door.
“I ignored the knocks but when my house girl continued knocking on the door, I managed to get up and opened the door. She told me that some people said that the President sent them to me.
“I got out of the room to find that a large number of people some of whom wore face masks and hand gloves were everywhere in the ground floor.
“ I told my house maid to ask the people to meet me in my study next door to the bedroom.
“They rushed into my study; one of them said his name was John. He flashed a card to me and showed me what he said was a search warrant.
“My vision was blurred as a result of the malaria and the drug I took. They had drawn guns.
“ I was terrified and I thought they had a more sinister mission than a mere search.
“I made to know whether the Chief Justice of Nigeria knew of their mission.
“One of them contemptuously spat ‘Who is Chief Judge of Nigeria?’
“I brought out my handset to call the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, they would not let me do so. Rather, they collected my three phones and another phone that I had discarded.
“I lay down on the seat in the parlour downstairs while they turned everything upside down on the ground floor.
“When they finished downstairs, they demanded that I should show them the rooms on the next floor.
“Again, I had to lie down on the seat in the room, while they turned everything upside down. I had to go to another seat when they wanted to upturn the seat I occupied.
“One of them saw the sum of forty thousand naira (N40,000.00) and one thousand naira notes in one of the drawers. He was excited and called their lead who saw the money and said ‘this is not the kind of money we came to pick.’ They left the N40,000.00.
“In the next bedroom, I lay on the bed out of sight of the wardrobe from which they brought some boxes and brief cases and travelling bags. All the bags and briefcases and travelling bags except one contained only magazines, papers and some old clothing.
“ Some were empty. Only one small bag was locked with a padlock and this was the only bag that contained money. They directed me to come over and remove the padlock.
I retrieved the key from the side pocket of the bag and removed the padlock and returned to my bed.
They put the bags together by the toilet door. They called me again and asked me whether the bags were my property and I answered they were my property.
“None of the bags were opened in my presence nor in the presence of my housemaid who was the only person in the house with me at all material times.
“Some of them stayed in the room while I took them to my study. At this time, I became very dizzy and I had to return to lie down on a seat in the parlour and a man with a gun and a face mask stood over me while I dozed. He followed each time I went to the toilet.
“Another one followed my housemaid each time I asked her for water. There was no way out of the house.
“They were at all doors. Those searching and those outside the house went into the house through the main door, kitchen door and back doors.
“ They went in and out of every room, including the room in which the bags were kept.
“ I dozed intermittently but my house girl was kept sitting on the steps and was able to observe them coming through the kitchen door but she could not see those who came from back doors, took the second steps and went in and out of the rooms on the upper floor.
“After many hours, they came down to the sitting room downstairs and told me they were going to bring down the bags.
“I was speechless when I saw them bringing out huge bundles of different currencies from the bags that had contained only magazine papers and old clothes and some were empty.
“Some were contained in multi-coloured plastic bags which they tore and discarded. They put the money in different bags and brief cases and then proceeded to count a large amount of N5, N10, N20 and N50 notes, which were the change I returned each time I went to shop over the years.
“They kept waking me up to ask how I came about the small denomination of naira notes. No one asked me any question about the huge sums of money they put in the bags.
“One of them came to where I was lying down and ordered me to sit up. One of the gun men, who stood a few feet from me, came and stood next to me with his gun drawn.
“ I was ordered to sign a paper which they said contained a list of what they were taking away. Confronted with the life-threatening situation, I made an instant mental decision that it was better for me to comply with their orders and stay alive to tell my story rather than get shot and killed on the pretext that I attacked them or that I tried to escape.
“ I signed the paper and wrote my name as ordered.
“No one told me what offence I was alleged to have committed. No one told me of any petition or allegation against me.
“The only bag that contained money was the small bag I locked with a padlock which I unlocked when ordered to do so. The bag contained the sum of $25,000, £10 and a brown envelope containing the sum of N710,000 which was a monthly allowance paid to me for September 2016.
“ In the brief case, which I carry to my office daily, I had the sum of N300,000 and some loose change.
“The above are the only sums of money taken from me along with my phones, papers and other household items.
“I do not know how they came about the huge sums of money I saw for the first time in my parlour on the early hours of Saturday, 8th October, 2016.
“The various sums of money alleged to have been recovered from me were said to be in the social media in the early hours of Saturday, 8th October, 2016 when the invaders were yet to complete their search.
“They took me away in their vehicle but before they drove away, they ordered my housemaid to get in and lock the house and not to ever come out or let anyone into the house.
“ It was when I saw DSS in the premises into which they drove me that I realized my invaders were agents of a Federal Government Department.
“ Prior to getting into the premises, I thought that the invaders were even armed robbers or kidnappers, more so when I was not questioned by anyone about anything. “Then I became much more disturbed not only for myself but for the future of this great Nation, Nigeria.
“I could not convince myself that any agency of the Federal Government, in a democratic setting, could for any undisclosed reason, violate the rights of a Nigerian citizen, a Judicial Officer and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, for that matter with such impunity.
“I thought that the democratic government had been overthrown and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) abolished or suspended.
“Then the next phase of the ordeal started. I was taken to a room where I met my learned brother, Hon. Justice John Inyang Okoro, JSC.
“He looked spent and so were other Judicial Officers both serving, sacked and retired.
“No one told me anything or asked me any question till late in the night when they drove for over one hour to a place they called Villa.
“They took Justice Okoro and myself into a room that contained only a bed with a discarded, stained old mattress and both of us had to share it for the night.
“There was no towel, no soap and worst of all, there was no toilet paper.
“We slept in our clothes, went under the tap and used our handkerchiefs in place of towels.
“The next day, Sunday, we were driven back to the office. I was taken to a room where two operatives fired questions at me in quick succession.
“ I answered as much as I could in the circumstances. I pleaded with them to tell me why I was abducted and detained and subjected to endless questioning.
“I also asked why everyone kept mute over the huge sums of money allegedly recovered in my house but none of the two men would answer my question.
“We were allowed to go home Sunday night only as a result of the intervention of the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON.
We were ordered to return on Monday and since then, we have been reporting daily to them. “On Friday last week, I was ordered to report by 10 am.
“Justice Okoro and I were required to appear before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate.
“We told our stories to the Senators and rushed from them to meet our interrogators.
On one particular occasion, I was taken to, and locked up, in their different rooms. Each room had only a table and a set of chairs and I was kept for about one and half hours in each room.
“No one was with me in any of the rooms,” he added.