Justice Rilwan Aikawa sitting at a Federal High Court, Lagos, has granted former minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman leave to serve the minister of information, Lai Mohammed a notice to appear before the court and explain why he should not be committed to Prison for publishing the name of the applicant in looters’ list while the matter is ongoing in court.
The federal government , through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Usman and three others before the court and they pleaded not guilty.
While the matter is still ongoing, the applicant’s name was included in looters’ list published by the alleged contemnor.
The court granted the application, following an ex-perte motion moved by Usman’s counsel, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), alleging contempt of court against Mohammed.
According to the motion, the alleged contemnor aware of the pendency of the suit, caused to be released and published a list of looters in several media platforms on April 1, 2018 where the name of the applicant featured prominently as having looted N1.5billion.
“Other than the instant ongoing charge for which applicant is standing trial; having pleaded not guilty thereto, she has never been charged, tried or convicted of any criminal offence whether for looting public fund or any other crime.
“The said publication has prejudiced the applicant in the minds of the public and was intended or likely to interfere or obstruct fair administration of justice in this charge, where the complainant/respondent is yet to conclude its case,” Usman stated.
Supported with a 14 paragraph affidavit deposed to by a litigation assistant at Synergy Attorneys, Sesan Adebayo, he swore that the alleged contemnor in a purported response to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), named persons he called looters of the Treasury at a Press Conference in Lagos and included the applicant, being aware of the pendency of the suit before the court.
“I believe that if the alleged contemnor is not made to show cause as to why he should not be charged for contempt and purge himself of the willful contempt of the authority of this court by committing him to prison, he will continue in his contemptuous activities thereby making mockery of the judicial process,” Adebayo averred.
The court also ordered that the motion on notice dated May 2, 2018 and other accompanying processes be served on the alleged contemnor by substituted means.
‘‘Effecting the service of the said processes on the alleged contemnor, Mr. Lai Mohammed by serving it on a responsible senior public official at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, where the alleged contemnor sits as the Minister for Information and Culture, which address is at, Plot 864, Cadastral Zone, Utako District, Abuja,” the court directed.
The court also held that such substituted service of the motion on notice and all other relevant process shall be deemed to be good and proper service on the alleged contemnor.
Justifying the reasons for the application, the applicant stated that the alleged contemnor’s address is outside the jurisdiction of the court and so requires the leave of court to do so as well as the fact that as a serving minister, he will not be easily accessible without formal appointment that entails elaborate protocols and bureaucracy.
The matter has been adjourned to October 2, 2018.