While Justice Adeniyi held that the suit lacked merit, he, however, noted that whatever the information minister had said does not have any meaning in the eyes of the law and therefore, was inconsequential.
by Guardian Nigeria Oct 24, 2018
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Apo, yesterday held that the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed’s mentioning of some prominent Nigerians in alleged looters list does not carry any force of law. Adeniyi stated this while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Proprietor, African Independent Television and Ray Power Radio, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi.
Dokpesi had sought court’s declaration of the said looters list as void and a breach of his fundamental rights of presumption of innocence. While Justice Adeniyi held that the suit lacked merit, he, however, noted that whatever the information minister had said does not have any meaning in the eyes of the law and therefore, was inconsequential.
The minister had emerged with a list containing names of some prominent Nigerians, most of whom were undergoing trial at various courts, and describing the list as looters list.
The court however held that the minister’s mere mentioning of names in the alleged looters list, on behalf of the Federal Government amounted to nothing.He said this was so because the minister was neither the judge, nor the prosecutor in the criminal case pending before the Federal High Court against Dokpesi.
The judge added that the minister’s statement at a world press conference on looters list in March this year couldn’t be prejudicial to the trial of anybody.
Consequently, the court held that the mere mentioning of the alleged looters names was not a violation of their rights to presumption of innocence, as enshrined in section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution.
He further held that the minister’s comment cannot be used to prevent the plaintiff from having his days in court to defend himself from whatever charges against him and as such, his presumption of innocence has not been violated.
The judge said: “What is more, the defendant has no statutory powers to declare the plaintiff guilty of a charge pending in a trial court, hence there is no need to declare the statement credited to Mohammed null and void.”
The court, however, stated that the remedy opened to the claimant lies in a different cause of action, and that section 155 of the Penal Code can be invoked to report the alleged statement to the police.
Meanwhile, another suit filed by Dokpesi against Lai Mohammed and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) on the same matter has been adjourned till November 9.