By Patience Mabel Yakubu/Wandoo Sombo
The first prosecution witness in the trial of Supreme Court Judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, has revealed how he was paid N313 million in cash to build houses for the defendant.
The witness, Mr Nwaba Linus, a contractor, while led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr Philips Adeogun, told the court on Wednesday that the defendant is his customer regarding construction.
He said from January 2016 to September 2016 he did construction for the defendant amounting to N313 million.
According to him, he first met the defendant on Dec. 31, 2015, at his residence at Engineering Close, off Onwe Road, Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.
He said the defendant engaged him to build houses and other services that include construction.
“I was introduced to him by one Mr Kenneth, a motor mechanic who told me that the defendant is in need of a firm or an individual to handle a building for him.
“When we met, he showed me an empty plot of land close to his residence, briefed me the structure he will like there and said he wanted my company to do some design for him.
“He asked me to design a storey building library block, a four bedroom bungalow with kitchen all self contain.
“He also told me to construct the swamping area and make it habitable to raise two four bedroom duplex detached, a fence to cover all the structures and a car pack to house some vehicles.
“I took the brief, assembled my workers, came up with the designs of houses to build and presented the design and drawings to the defendant for approval on Jan. 2, 2016.
“I submitted the design with my quotation of N148 million, which he refused but decided to pay N130 million and also approved the designs,” he said.
Linus further stated that on Jan. 4, 2016, the defendant mobilised him to come for the work and he was paid N40 million in cash to commence work.
He said he received N25 million and the remaining N15million in US Dollars.
“I was paid the balance of N90 million at various stages of the work in cash that is whenever the defendant comes to see the progress of the work and it was also paid in Naira and Dollars.
“We also had another construction project at Onwe Road which was a demolition of an existing storey building, sand filling of the area because it was so deep and construction of four units of four bedroom duplex.
“We commenced the construction of the project in April 2016, which was for the sum N165 million, but he only paid us N100 million in Naira and Dollars,’’ he stated.
He also told the court that he did another project for the defendant at Amofia Ukawu Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi, which he received N53 million in cash and N30 million through bank transfers, respectively.
He said the project was for demolition of a structure, fencing, painting and decoration of a guest house which was for the sum of N110 million.
When asked if he was concerned about receiving such huge amount of money from the defendant, he said yes he was concerned for the safety of the defendant and the huge sum of money he spends.
He said he once raised his concern to the defendant because he does not usually receive such amount of money from his customers.
“The defendant told me that I shouldn’t worry because the money was earned from his work and from judges conferences he attends outside the country.
“He said he earns his money legitimately because he saves well and don’t go on vacation outside the country like the other judges,” Linus added.
He further stated that on Oct. 8, 2016, someone drew his attention to a publication that the defendant was arrested by the DSS.
He said on Oct. 9, 2016, the defendant called and told him that he should go to his residence in Abakaliki and carry some bags from his bathroom because his house in Abuja was raided.
“I went to his residence because I was well known there, went to his bathroom and saw four bags which I carried and I also took three of his vehicles.
“In one bag were land and property documents while the other three bags contained N27 million in cash.
“I took the bags to a friend’s place in Abakaliki, used N24 million from the money for the construction project and the DSS are still in hold of the remaining N4.360 million approximately.
“I counted the cash it was N27 million but when I was arrested by the DSS and brought to Abakaliki where the bags are, they counted with some small amount of money and it was more than N27 million,” he said.
Justice John Tsoho, marked the documents as exhibits 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d and the pictures of the vehicles marked as exhibits 2a, 2b and 2c.
The defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), prayed for an adjournment to cross examine the witness.
The judge granted his request and adjourned the matter to Feb. 9 for cross examination.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Ngwuta was on Nov. 21, 2016, arraigned before the court on a 16-count charge.
The charge against him include alleged money laundering and judicial misconduct.