The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today, urged a Federal High Court, Lagos to dismiss a motion filed by a former Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Esther Nenadi Usman, seeking to commit the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to prison for alleged contempt.
The EFCC urged the court presided over by Justice Rilwan Aikawa to dismiss the Minister’s motion as it was aimed at annoying the prosecution and been abuse of court processes.
The former Minister alongside Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, Yusuf Danjuma, and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimension Limited are being prosecuted before the court by the EFCC on alleged N4.6 billion fraud.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons this morning, lawyer to the former Minister, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), told Justice Aikawa that before the court could continue hearing on the criminal charge charge filed against his client, the court must entertain his client’s Contempt motion against the Mr. Lai Mohammed.
After a prolonged arguments about which matter should be heard first, the court gave its nod the the former Minister’s motion against Lai Muhammed should be heard after the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, said he would reply on point of law.
Moving the motion, Chief Orbih (SAN) argued that the inclusion of his client’s name on the looters’ list released by the information Minister during the pendency of an alleged fraud case against her is contemptuous.
Responding to the arguments of the Orbih’ (SAN), on the motion, EFCC’s lawyer, Oyedepo, urged the court to decline the Nenadi’s request for the Information Minister to be summoned to explain why he should not be committed to prison over his action.
Oyedepo insisted that the applicant (Nenadi) was never referred to as a looter by the information minister saying what was published by some newspapers only bordered on allegations and cannot be said to be prejudicial to the applicant’s case in court.
He further argued that there was no advertorial from the Ministry of Information to substantiate the claims against the information minister.
He said: “The Minister of Information is not a party to the criminal proceedings against the applicant. There is no evidence to show that the alleged contemnor works with the various media houses that published the alleged offensive publication. Besides, there were no allegations against the media houses that published the alleged offensive publication.
“There was nothing that connects the ministry of information to the motion which was taken out to annoy the prosecution. The motion is lacking in substance, it is an abuse of court’s process and should be dismissed”.
Earlier, Nenadi’s lawyer, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) while urging the court to grant the motion alleged that the Infomation Minister had by his action pre-judged his client’s case before the court.
“The information minister’s action undermines the integrity of the court and is aimed at poisoning the mind of the public against the applicant.
“Assuming at the end of proceedings, the defendants were cleared of the alleged offence, the integrity of the court will be put to rest owing to the information minister’s action.
“In the absence of any denial by the alleged contemnor, there was no need for the applicant to attach any advertorial from the ministry of information. What is required at this stage is minimal proof in the absence of any specific denial by the alleged contemnor”, the silk said.
After listened to the arguments of the parties, Justice Aikawa adjourned till November 16, for ruling.
The EFCC had in a charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that the accused person, Usman, a former Minister of Finance, under president Goodluck Jonathan Administration, Mr. Femi Fani-kayode, who is also the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization, Danjuma Yusuf and the limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, had on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4. 6 billion, which was they knew to have be proceeds from an unlawful act.
The agency also alleged that while the former State Minister for Finance, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited retained the sum of N1.5 billion, Femi Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke, said to be at large, were alleged to have retained the total sum of N1,650,650 billion.
The accused were also alleged to have made payment of several amounts running to billions on Naira without going through Financial institutions.
The offences according to the anti-graft agency are contrary to sections 1(a), Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a), 16(d) 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3), 16(2)(b) and 4 of the same Act.
Count one of the charge reads;
That you, Nnenadi Esther Usman, Femu Fani-kayode, Danjuma Yusuf and Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited, on or about the 8th day of January 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00 (One Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.”
While count 17 reads; “that you Femi Fani-kayode and Olubode Oke (still at large) on or about the 12th day of February,2015 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court without going through a financial institution made cash payment in the sum of N6,000,000. 000 (Six Million Naira) to Paste Poster Company (PPC) of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.