The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday failed to deliver ruling on Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT)’s application for variation of his bail conditions.
Justice Okon Abang, who announced this during the proceeding, said the ruling, though it was not ready, was still within time.
The judge frowned at a newspaper story published on Thursday, which he described as “contemptuous”.
NAN observed that in the newspaper’s report, Nnamdi Nkwocha, the Convener of Citizens Watch Nigeria, at a media briefing, reportedly pleaded for variation of Maina’s bail conditions while eulogising Justice Abang.
The judge said the court registrar had called his attention to the publication before sitting in the morning.
And when Maina’s case was called, Justice Abang directed the registrar to read out the publication in the open court.
“Behold, it was a publication concerning a case that was set down for ruling today for variation of the bail conditions of Abdulrasheed Maina,” the judge remarked.
Unhappy with the report, Justice Abang said the move was to influence the decision of the court.
Justice Abang said he considered the publication to be contemptuous of this court.
With this publication, he said, the court was being threatened.
“It is trying to influence or prejudice the mind of the court to deliver ruling in a particular way by relying on extraneous issues that are totally irrelevant to the issues placed before the court for adjudication,” he said.
The judge held that the publication was a direct violation of Section 133, Subsection 4 of the Criminal Code and that anyone who was guilty of the offence was liable to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
He added that he had planned to order the editor and the reporter of the newspaper to appear before the court to show cause while contempt proceeding should not be commenced before another court against them and for them to disclose the sponsor of the publication and their intention, considering the nature of the matter.
“But having considered the persuasive arguments of the counsel representing the prosecution and the defence, I will leave the newspaper, its staff and sponsors to their conscience,” he said
Justice Abang cautioned against analysing a judge in the discharge of his duty.
EFCC lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, had urged Justice Abang to “disregard the publication and deliver the ruling whenever it is ready since there is no indication that either party is involved in the news conference or publication”.
He also described the publication as “contempt of court”.
Mohammed Monguno, Counsel to Maina, said he had confidence in the court that it would deliver justice without fear or favour.
Also, Counsel to the second defendant (Common Input Investment and Property Limited), Adeola Adedipe, adopted the submission by counsel to the prosecution and Maina.
“They have already covered the field, but by way of addition, I like to assure the court of our support and cooperation in this matter.