The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss an application by a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenadi Usman, seeking to summon Minister of Information Lai Mohammed for publishing her name as an alleged looter.
Usman who is currently on trial for alleged money laundering before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, initiated contempt proceedings before the same judge against Mohammed after he released her name as one of the treasury looters.
It would be recalled that Lai Mohammed earlier this year, released a list detailing the names of those that have been accused of stealing from the nation’s treasury. At the hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the application was “parasitic” and a ploy to delay the former minister’s trial. He argued that Mrs. Usman ought to have filed a separate civil suit for libel against Mohammed rather initiating contempt proceedings before the judge she is undergoing trial.
In a motion on notice filed through her lawyer, Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), the former minister of finance argued that the inclusion of her name on the looters’ list while her case was pending in court was contemptuous. She said Lai Mohammed was aware that he case was still in court and still went on to include her name in the list of looters that was publsihed on several media platforms on April 1st. The list indicated that she allegedly looted N1.5 billion while in office.
The EFCC lawyer urged the court to grant his client leave for Mohammed to appear to show cause as to why he should not be committed to prison for contempt.
The SAN said Mohammed’s publication of Usman’s name as a looter undermined the court’s authority, adding that should the court fail to punish Mohammed, its integrity would be questioned by the public.
But, Oyedepo argued that the newspaper publications cited by Orbih did not expressly declare Usman as a looter.
He said the reports used the expression “alleged looter”, which he said was in conformity with the charge against Usman.
“There is nowhere in Exhibit A (newspaper report), where the defendant is described as a looter of public treasury. What was published is an allegation which is yet to be proven,” he said.
The EFCC re-arraigned Usman and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode for alleged N4.6 billion fraud, to which they pleaded not guilty.
The former ministers were charged along with former Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and ex-Chairman of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State Mr. Yusuf Danjuma and a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
The four were accused of indirectly retaining N300 million, N400 million and N800 million, all proceeds of corruption. The prosecution said they allegedly committed the offence between January 8 and March 25, 2015, ahead of the general election.
The presiding judge, Justice Aikawa, adjourned the case till October 16th and 19th for ruling.