The former minister of aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and former minister of state for finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman have initiated contempt proceedings at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the minister of information Mr. Lai Mohammed for publishing their names in the alleged looters’ list.
Fani-Kayode, Usman and two others are standing trial at the Federal High Court Lagos for alleged N4.6 billion fraud and money laundering.
At Monday’s proceedings, Fani-Kayode, through his lawyer, Mr. Ferdinand Orbih, told Justice Rilwan Aikawa that his application against Mohammed was brought pursuant to the provisions of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act, as well as the Court’s Civil Procedure Rules.
He said his application was seeking leave of the court, to serve the motion on notice, on the minister of information, over alleged acts of contempt.
Orbih also told the court that Fani-Kayode had published a list of looters some and had named the plaintiff as number 19 on that list.
He described such as “very serious” and also as an attempt to interfere with the proceedings before the court and portray his client as already guilty of the charges preferred against him.
He, therefore, urged the court to grant the ex-parte application enabling the defence to serve the said motion on notice on the minister in Abuja, by substituted means, as personal service may not be feasible.
In a short ruling, Justice Aikawa declared: “I have perused the application including the supporting affidavits and I am satisfied that the application ought to be granted.
“The application is granted, save that it should be served on his confidential Secretary in Abuja.”
The court adjourned further hearing in the charge preferred against the accused persons till October 2.
Similarly, Usman in a motion on notice filed through Orbih argued that the inclusion of her name on the looters’ list while her case was pending in court was contemptuous.
Justice Aikawa her leave to serve Mohammed a notice to appear before the court and explain why he should not be committed to prison for publishing her name in looters’ list while the matter is ongoing in court.
Usman, in the motion on notice, said Mohammed was aware of the charge against her yet he caused to be published a list of looters in several media platforms on April 1 where her name 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 said.
In a supporting affidavit deposed to by a litigation assistant at Synergy Attorneys, Sesan Adebayo, the deponent said Mohammed committed the alleged contempt in response to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) demand that the Federal Government should name looters.
“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 ordered that the May 2 motion on notice and other accompanying processes be served on the alleged contemnor by substituted means at his Plot 864, Cadastral Zone, Utako District, Abuja, office.
It followed Orbih’s prayer for substituted service as the alleged contemnor’s address is outside the court’s jurisdiction and he may be difficult to reach personally due to elaborate protocols and bureaucracy involved in reaching a minister.
Ruling, Justice Aikawa emphasized that the processes should be served on Mohammed through 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.
“I have perused the application including the supporting affidavits and I am satisfied that the application ought to be granted. The application is granted save that it should be served on his (Mohammed’s) confidential Secretary in Abuja,” he said
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.