Court throws out contempt application against Lai Mohammed

Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

Lai Mohammed: Minister of Information and Culture

Justice Mohammed Aikawa of a Federal High Court, Lagos, on Friday dismissed a contempt application filed by a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenadi Usman, against Minister of Information Lai Mohammed over inclusion of her name in the ‘looters’ list.

Usman is standing trial on allegations of money laundering alongside a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Govenment of Nigeria, Yusuf Danjuma, and a company, Joint Trust Dimension Ltd.

Usman had argued in the application that the inclusion of her name on the  list released during the pendency of her trial, was contemptuous.

She,  therefore, initiated a suit against  Mohammed for alleged contempt of court, claiming that his action undermined the integrity of the court, and was aimed at poisoning the mind of the court.

EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo,  had urged the court to refuse Usman’s application, arguing that the applicant was never referred to as a looter by the minister.

He said that what was published by some newspapers only bordered on allegations, and could not be said to be prejudicial to the applicant’s case in court.

In his ruling,  Aikawa upheld the submission of the prosecution that the right parties to the contempt suit were not before the court.

According to him, the publications, which the applicant complained of, were made by media houses and not Mohammed.

He said that the right parties to be joined in the application were the media houses.

The judge also held that a mere publication, which did not go to the substance of a case or directly affect proceedings before the court, could not be said to have interfered or influenced the mind of the court.

The judge added  that the publication was not an advertorial from Mohammed, and that he could not be held responsible for what was published by media houses.

The judge, therefore, ruled that the publication was not prejudicial to the applicant’s case in court.

He dismissed it for lacking merit.

EFCC had re-arraigned the accused on a 17-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.

According to the EFCC, in January 2015, the accused unlawfully retained a total sum of N4.6 billion, which they knew formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.

The court has adjourned until Jan. 24 for continuation of trial.