From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Imo State and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, has attributed the death of Supreme Court Justice Sylvester Ngwuta to the shock and trauma occasioned by the midnight raid of his official Abuja residence by operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) in 2016.
While paying tribute to the late jurist, Ume, who spoke with Daily Sun, stated: ‘It is unfortunate that what he was subjected to something unknown in any civilized nation, that he couldn’t recover from that shock and trauma.
‘This is very very unfortunate. That he passed on at the hour and time of the invasion speaks of protest of what he was subjected to. He died in protest of what he was subjected to in the hands of operatives of the DSS in 2016.’
Ume described the late jurist as a legal icon who contributed immensely to the development of Nigerian jurisprudence.
‘It’s most unfortunate to hear about the death of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court. It is devastating that we lose such a jurist who has played a wonderful role in Justice dispensation in Nigeria.
‘While in the High Court bench, he made novel pronouncements, while at the Court of Appeal, he made wonderful efforts and beautiful pronouncements in the judicial jurisprudence of our country. At the Supreme Court, he was an icon.’
Speaking in the same vein, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said of the late justice: ‘I am deeply pained by his untimely death just a few months before his due retirement. He was a conscientious judge, cerebral and found not corrupt even when he was unjustly traduced by the DSS government apparatchik.’
In his tribute, another senior lawyer, Chief Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, said:
‘What a loss. I believe he died because he could not live down the disgrace he was subjected to by the powers that be. Can you imagine how he will be perceived in his retirement given that he would then have been stripped of the protection and grandeur of office? We must be careful how we treat our public officers but more importantly, public officers must live in the realisation that like Ceasar’s wife they must live above suspicion. May his soul rest in peace.’
The State Security Service had in 2016 raided the homes of some judges late Friday and early Saturday to gather evidence of corruption.
The raids on multiple residences of judicial officers were carried out simultaneously in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto.
In Abuja, the judges whose homes were raided include Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja as well as Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court.
A statement by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Hadizatu Mustapha, announcing the death of Justice Ngwuta, said he died in the early hours of Sunday in his sleep at his official Abuja residence.
‘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 (ICU) of the hospital on Friday, March 5, he tested negative [for] COVID-19 in [an] investigative test conducted on him,’ the statement read.