Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday warned online news media and social media users to desist from spreading fake news and from giving wrong interpretations to court proceedings in order to avoid being charged with contempt.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, handed down the warning at the ongoing trial of the Senator representing Delta North in the National Assembly, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi over N322 million money laundering charge.
The judge was irked when his attention was drawn to some online news feeds, which had the caption “Prince Kpokpogri on his way to prison,” by the prosecutor, Wemimo Ogunde (SAN).
Prince Kpokpogri is a prosecution witness in the matter.
Ogunde described the development as worrisome and an obstruction to the administration of justice.
The lawyer further claimed that the writers were media aides to the accused Senator, he therefore urged the court to allow him respond to the accusation.
But in his response, the accused person told the court that he never authorised any of the online publications.
The court then warned parties in the matter to be cautious of taking ongoing court proceedings for discussions or interpretations on social media platforms, while trial was still ongoing.
According to the judge, the court is a hallowed chambers and so parties cannot go about discussing ongoing proceedings on social media platforms when a final decision had not been reached by the court.
The court warned: “If this continues, those responsible will be brought here and charged with contempt”.
The judge added: “we know there are journalists attached to this court and at least they report fairly.”
Nwaoboshi, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftain, was arraigned alongside two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on a two-count charge of money laundering and fraud.
The EFCC, in the charges claimed that Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Project Limited purchased a property known as Guinea House, Marine Road, Apapa, Lagos for N805m between May and June 2014.
The anti-graft agency claimed that N322m out of the N805m, which Nwaoboshi and the firm paid for the property, was part of proceeds of “an unlawful act, to with: fraud.”
The EFCC alleged that the N322m was transferred to the vendor of the property on the order of Suiming Electricals Limited.
Suiming Electricals Limited was accused of aiding Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Project Limited to commit money laundering on or about May 14, 2014.
The prosecution said the defendants acted contrary to sections 18(a) and 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and are liable to punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
All the accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Also during Monday’s proceedings, Kpokpogri concluded his testimony.
Justice Aneke adjourned until December 4 for continuation of trial.