By Mabel Yakubu
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, says that EFCC must retract an offensive press statement against Nicholas Ashinze, a former aide to retired Col. Sambo Dasuki, before the trial can resume.
The judge made the declaration at the resumed trial of the case in Abuja on Thursday.
Kolawole on March 21 stopped the trial pending the time the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) retracted the statement issued by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren.
The EFCC statement had said the defendants were being tried over N36.8 billion fraud and referred to Ashinze as a retired military officer while he was still a serving officer.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to EFCC, Mr Ofem Uket, informed the court that the agency had retracted the statement, published in newspapers on April 12.
Uket urged the court to resume the trial of the defendant on the ground that the court order issued against EFFC had fully been complied with.
However, the defence counsel, led by Mr Ernest Nwoye, said EFCC had not shown any evidence or placed any document before the court as proof of compliance.
The defence argued that since the court’s order was in writing and duly served EFCC, the prosecution must show respect by attaching necessary document to show compliance.
The defence said in the absence of any documentary evidence, the court should not attach any seriousness to the oral evidence of the prosecution.
In his ruling, Kolawole dismissed the oral submission of the prosecution since it failed to produce any document or evidence to prove its claim.
He said the prosecution counsel as a minister in the temple of justice had not shown any seriousness or done enough to protect the integrity of the judiciary from being unjustly rubbished.
“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,” the judge declared.
He ordered that the Deputy Registrar, Litigation, of the court must liaise with the Deputy Sheriff to ensure that the order of March 21 was served the Editor-in-chief or the appropriate person in Vanguard Newspaper.
He said the relevant officer of the newspaper must come before the court on May 4 to show where it (newspaper) got the March 8 publication on the N36.8 billion fraud charge against the defendants.
Kolawole said that his order of March 21 would remain in force until it had been fully complied with.
Ashinze is standing trial with an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl, Edidiong Idiong and Sagir Mohammed, on a 13-count charge of money laundering.
Other defendants in the case are five companies – Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organisation, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Service Limited.