The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, failed to deliver ruling on Abdulrasheed Maina, ex-chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT)’s application for variation of his bail conditions.
Justice Okon Abang, who made this known during the proceeding, said the ruling, though was not ready, it was still within time.
Justice Abang, however, frowned at a Thursday’s newspaper publication, which he described as “contemptuous.”
In the newspaper’s reports, one Nnamdi Nkwocha, the convener of Citizens Watch Nigeria, had, in a news conference, said to have pleaded for variation of Maina’s bail conditions while eulogising Justice Abang.
The judge said that 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 said 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.
According to the judge, I consider the publication to be contemptuous of this court.
With this publication, he said, this court is being threatened.
“It is trying to influence or prejudice the minds 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 any one that was guilty of the offence was liable to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
He pointed out 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
The judge, however, cautioned against analysing a judge in the discharge of his duty.
Earlier, the 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 speaking, Counsel to 2nd defendant (Common Input Investment and Property Ltd.), 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.
“That whether proximately or remotely, we will not connect, associate or affiliated with anything that will denigrate the court.
“We are ministers in the temple of justice and we shall remain so with all intents and purposes,” Adedipe said.
On Jan. 13, Justice Abang again adjourned the hearing till Jan. 14 and after the proceeding, he adjourned to deliver ruling on the matter on Jan. 23.
Justice Abang had, on Nov. 25, admitted Abdulrasheed Maina to a bail in the sum of N1 billion.
The judge, who gave the ruling, also ordered that Maina must produce two sureties who must be serving senators.
The two lawmakers, according to the judge, must not be standing any criminal trial in any court in the country and must have landed property at Maitama or Asokoro area of Abuja.
He also ruled that the two sureties, who must be prepared for a N500 million bond each, must always be in court with the defendant at each adjourned date.
However, Maina had been unable to meet the bail conditions.