An oral application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the leave of the court to summon a former Minister of Information, Edwin Clark for contempt of court has been refused by Justice Gabriel Kolawole.
At a resumed hearing to determine the owner of the $15 million alleged bribe offered by former Delta State governor, James Ibori to the former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, the counsel to the commission, Rotimi Jacobs complained of statements credited to Mr Clark suggesting that the proceedings filed by the EFCC was based on falsehood as such the agency’s boss Ibrahim Lamorde should be sacked.
Mr Jacobs argued that the statements credited to Mr Clark in some newspapers which arose from a media briefing convened by the Ijaw leader are prejudicial. He urged the court to summon Mr Clark to appear before it to answer questions as to why he made prejudicial comments that touches on live issues in a pending case.
The former minister had, during a press briefing on the issue of an application for forfeiture of the alleged Ibori bribe which the EFCC had brought before the court, thrown his weight behind claims by the Delta state government that the money belonged to the state and should be returned to it. He called for the sack of Mr Lamorde over his roles in the plot to have the sum forfeited to the Federal Government.
He claimed that Mr Lamorde has his eyes on the percentage of the sum that will come to his office if the money is forfeited to the federal government and accused the anti-graft agency boss of falsifying the records for his ulterior motives.
In his response to the application by the EFCC for Mr Clark to be summoned by the court, the Attorney General of Delta state, Wilson Ajuya, called on the court to be cautious and not to waste precious time pursuing an issue that is outside the matter before it.
He further noted that summoning the elder statesman at this time will be premature since the court is yet to read and acquaint itself with the newspaper reports upon which the EFCC is basing their application.
In his ruling to the application, Justice Kolawole said Mr Clark is not a party in the suit pending before his court and that dwelling on comments made by non-parties in a suit amounts to searching for the cure for ring worm in a case involving leprosy.
The court however called on Nigerians, especially lawyers like Mr Clark who ought to know, to desist from making comments on matters pending before the court as that will prejudge the outcome of the case.
The court also advised the EFCC to file a formal application to enable Mr Clark respond accordingly in line with his constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing.
Meanwhile, another person, Olalekan Bayode, had also applied to be joined in the Ibori bribe money matter on a public interest locus.
Mr. Bayode wants the government not to release the $15 million to Delta state government but rather to set up a Trust to manage the money on behalf of Nigerians. He hinged his argument on the repatriated funds retrieved from corrupt politicians in the past which could not be accounted for.
The judge adjourned further proceedings to 19 November at 11 am.