Justice Kolawole Accepts EFCC’s Apology on Media Trial


BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday lifted the embargo he placed on the hearing of criminal cases brought before him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over false dissemination of court proceedings by the anti-graft agency.

The judge accepted the apology tendered by the EFCC for misleading the general public in the trial of a case involving a serving Army officer, Colonel Nicholas Ashinze and four others.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Ufem Uket promised the judge that his client will learn lesson and will no longer subject defendants in its cases to media trial any longer.

Before the apology was taken, the EFCC had tendered newspaper publications where the offending EFCC press statements were refuted as directed by the court.

Also the Editor of Vanguard Newspaper and its Judiciary Reporter summoned in respect of the offending publication were let go following their defence that their report was based on a press statement issued by one Mr. Wilson Uwujare on behalf of EFCC.

Uwujare, who is the Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC had in a statement said that the serving Colonel Ashinze had been indicted over a N36.8bn public fund diversion whereas, the defendant was charged with N1.5B public fund diversion just as Colonel Ashinze was referred to as a retired officer.

Following the acceptance of the apology, Justice Kolawole agreed to resume the trial of the case but warned the media and the EFCC to always report court proceedings accurately and to avoid unnecessary sensation in the interest of justice.

The Judge warned that extra caution must be observed by the media and EFCC so as not to pollute the mind of the general public on pending trials against the defendants.

Justice Kolawole had at the last adjourned date insisted that the trial of Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a former aide to Colonel Sambo Dasuki and 7 others in alleged N1.5b fraud would not resume until the EFCC retracts the misrepresentation of the court’s proceedings that the defendants are being tried on N36.8b fraud.

The judge had dismissed the oral claim by the counsel to EFCC, Mr. Ofem Uket that the anti-graft agency had retracted the offending publication because the lawyer failed to produce any document or evidence before the court to ascertain its claim.

The judge said that “No responsible judge will sit down and allow his court to be rubbished with falsehood as in the case of the EFCC that has been engaging in feeding the general public with falsehood

“It is a fact that the defendants in criminal matter will be prejudiced when they are unjustly subjected to media trial through publication of falsehood and misrepresentation of the court’s proceeding.

“Since the court cannot act in vain, it is hereby ordered that the EFCC must show compliance in the appropriate way with the retraction of the offending press statement it issued out in respect of the proceeding of this court.

“Let it be understood that the press as the fourth Estate of the realm has the responsibility of holding all arms of government accountable to general public but the press has no business in misrepresenting the court so that defendants in criminal matters would not be prejudiced and would not be found guilty though false media trial before the real court trial.”

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