Chief Edwin Clark
By Tobi Soniyi
A Federal High Court in Abuja Monday refused a request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to summon elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, to appear before the court for contempt.
The EFCC had accused Clark of commenting on the suit it filed for the forfeiture of the $15 million allegedly used by the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, to bribe the commission’s officials.
Making the application on behalf of the commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that the elder statesman had commented on certain salient and live issues in the case of the alleged $15 million Ibori bribe which was allegedly offered to its former chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
The lawyer contended that the remarks credited to Clark in some newspapers from a media briefing convened by him were prejudicial.
He urged the court to summon Clark to appear before it to answer questions as to why he made prejudicial comments that touched on live issues in a pending case.
In his response to the application, the Attorney General of Delta State, Mr. Wilson Ajuya (SAN), called on the court to be cautious and not to waste precious time pursuing an issue that was outside the matter before it.
He further noted that summoning the elder statesman at this time would be premature since the court was yet to read and acquaint itself with the newspaper reports upon which the EFCC based its application.
In his ruling, Justice Gabriel Kolawole noted that Clark was not a party in the suit pending before the court and that dwelling on comments made by non parties in a suit amounted to searching for the cure for ring worm in a case involving leprosy.
The court, however, called on Nigerians, especially lawyers like Clark, who ought to know, to desist from making comments on matters pending before the court in order not to prejudge the outcome of the case.
The court also advised EFCC, if it was so vexed by comments credited to the elder statesman, to file a formal application to enable Clark respond accordingly in line with his constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing.
Clark had, during a press briefing on the case thrown his weight behind claims by the Delta State government that the money belonged to the state and should be returned to it.
He called for the sack of Ibrahim Lamorde over his roles in the plot to have the sum forfeited to the Federal Government.
He alleged that Lamorde had his eyes on the percentage of the sum that would come to his office if the money was forfeited to the Federal Government and accused the anti-graft agency boss of falsifying the records for his ulterior motives.
He accused the EFCC under Lamorde of full of lies and contradictions about the money pointing out statements contained in a counter affidavit deposed to by one Bello Yahaya, an operative of the EFCC which the agency relied upon in opposition to the Delta state government claimed for the money to be returned to it.
Clark had further stated that the affidavit deposed to by Yahaya last August contradicted an earlier one he deposed to in 2007 after the $15 million was collected from the home of former Presidential aide, Senator Andy Uba, by Lamorde in the presence of the then EFCC boss, Ribadu.
He regretted that the anti-graft agency was being portrayed as one not transparent, competent and committed to the war against corruption.
Meanwhile, another person, Mr. Olalekan Bayode, had also applied to be joined in the Ibori bribe money matter on a public interest locus.
Bayode wanted the government not to release the $15 million to Delta State government but rather to set up a Trust to manage the money on behalf of Nigerians.
He hinged his argument on the repatriated funds retrieved from corrupt politicians in the past which could not be accounted for.
The case was adjourned to 19 November for continuation.