Justice Okon Abang of the federal high Court Abuja on Thursday drew battle line with jthe media over the coverage of the trial of former Chairman of Pension Reforms Task Force Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, when he accused them of bias against his court in their report.
He accused them of blackmail.
The Judge also extended accusations against some senior lawyers in the defence of Maina.
Abang had created a scene when he ordered his registrar to inform Maina to stop starring at him when he (Abang) was writing a ruling.
The registral while passing the message pointedly told the embarrassed Maina to look at those who brought him to court and not the Judge.
At yesterday proceeding, Justice Abang accused journalist of not reflecting the kind gestures of his court in their reports, adding that, “Some of them serve their personal interest, rather then national interest.
He said when the court allowed Maina to sit down during trial and the day he was allowed to take his drugs in the open court, the press refused to mention all these kind gestures of the court in their report.
He accused Ahmed Raji, SAN, of walking out on the court, even, when Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN), who was the lead counsel in the matter had told him (Abang) that Raji may have been held by an engagement he never envisaged ”because he never told me he was not coming back”.
“Lead counsel to Maina, my friend and classmate in school, Ahmed Raji (SAN) walked out on the court during the proceedings of October 30, the press did not report that, even when Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN) threatened the court, while arguing for adjournment, the press did not mention any of these”, he said. ”But misinformed the public that he ordered Maina not to look directly at him in court.
“The press is bias. On account of all these, I come to the conclusion that the press is unfair to the court”, he said.
Justice Abang had on Tuesday disallowed Maina’s coinsel to file response to the counter affidavit of EFCC opposing the bail application of Maina.
Plea by the counsel, Mr Francis Oronsaye that the Judge give a little time to respond to the fundermental facts in the counter affidavit in the interest of fair hearing and justice was rebuffed by the judge.
The drama got to the climax when the Judge unilaterally deemed the process of Maina adopted without the input of the counsel.
Meanwhile, Maina is to remain in custody over alleged N2B fraud charges brough against him following the adjournment of the matter to Nov 21.
The authorities of the Nigerian Prison Services had asked for a week to come out with a detailed report on the health status of the accused person.
Maina was wheeled to court yesterday for continuation of his trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC on the alleged fraud and money laundering.
Following his absence in court on Tuesday on ill-health reason, the trial judge, Justice Abang had ordered the Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prison Service in charge of Welfare and Medical to conduct a thorough examination of Maina, to ascertain his health status and report to the court.
At the resumed trial yesterday, prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar informed the court that the enroll order of the court was forwarded to the Deputy Comptroller, Medical and Welfare of the Prison Mr H. B Kori on November 6, 2019.
Abubakar said Kori, in a letter dated November 6 and served on the prosecution yesterday requested for one week to comply with the order of the court, so as to carry out a comprehensive medical examination on Maina to ascertain his state of health and to know if he (Maina) is medically fit to stand his trial.
The prosecution counsel then said Kori’s appeal was reasonable and urged the court to grant the request and to adjourn the case to November 21, 2019 for continuation of trial.
With agreement of counsel in the matter, Justice Abang adjourned the matter to November 21 and 22 for continuation of trial.
Earlier, the court told counsel that ruling on Maina’s bail application, which was earlier slated to be delivered yesterday was not ready, because of the work load of the court but that the court will fix a date for the ruling before the close of work.
“I noticed that the accused was in court in a wheel chair, I didn’t order him to come to come on a wheel chair. Am deeply touched when I saw him this morning”, he said.
The EFCC is prosecuting Maina along side a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, allegedly linked with him on a 12-count criminal charge, bordering on fraud, abuse of public office and money laundering of about about N2b.