By Wandoo Sombo
Abuja, Sept. 3, 2020 Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, implored journalists to be unbiased in covering proceedings in the alleged money laundering case against Ochuko Momoh and five others.
Momoh is the wife of former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh.
The judge stressed the need to report cases accurately and desist from publishing sensational and misleading information which may affect the defendants’ right to fair hearing.
The judge made the appeal after defence lawyers, Mr Ade Adedeji,SAN, and Mr Friday Onoja drew the attention of the court to some media reports which according to them, misrepresented facts in the case.
Adedeji told the court that one of the issues misrepresented from the last sitting was that the first prosecution witness never mentioned anything about 50 bank accounts belonging to the first defendant as was reported in the media.
He added that the witness also did not say anything about the children of the first defendant maintaining accounts to which money was paid.
The judge directed the lawyer to file an affidavit attaching the publications that misrepresented facts in the case and give same to the prosecution.
He further cautioned the media to exercise restraint and professionalism in reporting proceedings in the case.
“I have not read the newspapers in question and therefore cannot say anything for now. Kindly do an affidavit and attach the newspapers.
“Journalists are members of the fourth estate of the realm and they have constitutional duties to report matters of public interest.
“I cannot stop them, but I will kindly appeal to them to always balance their reports in an objective manner.”
Momoh and other defendants; Blessing Azuka-Agozi, StanbicIBTC Bank Plc, Energopol Nig. Limited, Blaid Construction Limited and Blaid Farms Limited are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
They are being prosecuted on charges bordering on fraud to the tune of N2 billion.
Momoh is also accused of refusing to honour ICPC investigators’ invitation.
Azuka-Agozi was also alleged to have, while serving as the Company Secretary of Energopol Nig Ltd, reneged in 2016 on her pledge to provide ICPC’s investigators with documents.
Stanbic IBTC was accused of failing to report suspicious transactions in the accounts of Blaid Construction and Blaid Farms to the relevant authorities as required by law.
Both women pleaded not guilty when the charges was read to them and the court recorded a not guilty plea for the four companies.
The judge adjourned the matter until Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.