Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja, has ordered the federal government to arraign a legal practitioner and former Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Ben Chuks Nwosum.
He is to be arraigned alongside three staff of the Channels Television, namely Chamberlain Usoh, Gimba Umar and Nneota Egbe.
The three Channels TV staff had anchored the media outfit’s “Sunrise Daily Programme” where it was alleged that Nwosu, one of Metuh’s lawyers, made contemptuous and prejudicial questions and comments.
The judge made the order yesterday in a ruling after the unedited video of the TV programme was aired in open court.
After watching the video of the programme, Justice Abang admitted that “it is clear that the questions asked by the three men that anchored the programme and comments of Ben Chuks Nwosu as well as the voice of Barrister Johnson Ojogbane, SSA to the EFCC, were made outside the court.
“Therefore, I have no jurisdiction to determine whether the questions and comments by the anchormen and the lawyers were prejudicial and contemptuous.
“I heard the comments made by Ben Chuks Nwosu concerning this trial, if he had been courageous enough to appear before this court today, I would have known what to do,” Abang stated.
“If they had made the comments before this court, I would have known whether the statements were contemptuous,” the court said.
Besides, Justice Abang said it would be risky to speculate whether the voice was that of Ojogbane as his picture was not equally shown by the TV station.
However, Justice Abang had to invoke section 6(6b) of the constitution to have the matter referred to the appropriate quarters or organ in a bid to find out whether or not the comments were contemptuous or prejudicial.
Consequently, the court ordered that Oluyemisi Ipaye, Senior Manager News and Programmes, Channels TV shall within seven days from yesterday (July 3) file 10 copies of transcript of the questions asked by the anchormen; and 10 copies of the DVD showing questions asked by the anchormen and comments made by Ben Chuks Nwosu and Johnson Ojogbane.
Abang held that the prosecution shall within 10 days refer the matter to the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, who shall determine whether the comments made by Ben Chuks Nwosu, lawyer to the 1st defendant (Metuh) alleging media trial on the Channels TV programme aired on May 22, were in violation of Rules 33 of Rules of Professional and Conduct of Legal Practitioners 2007.
Before the transcript is filed, the court directed that the defence and prosecution counsel shall meet with the management of Channels TV for parties to agree that the transcript represents questions asked and answers got without adding or removing anything.
In addition, Justice Abang stated that “Ten days after the prosecution (federal government) had filed a formal complaint to the NBA Disciplinary Committee, the federal government shall submit both the transcript and DVD to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice”.
“Upon receipt of the transcript and recorded DVD, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as the Chief Law officer of the federation, and for the sake of national interest, to protect the judiciary of this country that will not have the opportunity to respond when judges are attacked, blackmailed or accused in the cause of discharge of their functions in this thankless job; the AGF shall arraign the following persons, namely, Ben Chuks Nwosu, Chamberlain Usoh, Gimba Umar and Nneota Egbe.”
Abang ordered that they should be “arraigned in any court of coordinate jurisdiction within the jurisdiction of the court other than this court under section 134(4) of the Criminal Code.”
By their arraignment, Abang wants the court to determine whether questions asked by the three anchormen, the comments by Nwosu, or the fact that Channels TV allowed itself to be used to discuss a pending case are not contemptuous and misleading to the public.
Upon arraignment, Abang held that the “court shall determine whether Channels TV has not made prejudicial statement thereby misleading the public, and distorting fact of the case for selfish interest.”
Consequently, Justice Abang gave the federal government 30 days to comply with the order.
“Federal government shall within 30 days file an affidavit of compliance,” the court directed, stressing that, “I cannot order arraignment of Ojogbane because I did not see his face, I and his picture was not used. I only heard a voice, I and it is risky to speculate”.
On the producer of the programme, Ogun Yusuf Maope, the court discharged her, saying she ought not to have been drafted to the court.
Meanwhile, Justice Abang also reopened the case of Metuh to enable him call two more witnesses and also to allow him testify personally in his on going trial.
In vacating the order of court made on May 25, closing the 1st defendant’s case, Abang said, the order was made in default because Metuh’s counsel was not heard.
“It is in the light of this that this court has the jurisdiction to set aside its order made on May 25, 2018, closing the case of the 1st defendant.
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