The Judge accused the Nigerian newspaper of deliberate distortion of facts.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Lagos, singled out ThisDay newspaper for harsh words, Wednesday morning, as he read the court’s judgement on whether the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has the power to de-register political parties in Nigeria.
But the newspaper responded swiftly, describing the allegation as ridiculous.
Just before reading the court’s decision on the suit, the visibly angry judge accused ThisDay newspapers of peddling falsehood and misrepresenting the court’s decisions.
“ThisDay have been misrepresenting the decision of this court in their newspaper. They will not look for the truth, they will only hear one side of the story to please whoever is paying them,” he said.
The judge further suggested that the newspaper, by its alleged false reports, may be acting out the script of unnamed persons that have paid its reporters millions of naira.
“They don’t have the fear of God. I say this in particular to ThisDay newspaper. Do not misrepresent the court. Have the fear of God. Even if you are paid in millions, publish the truth,” he said.
The judge threatened to order the arrest of the newspaper’s reporters if their campaign of falsehood is not stopped.
“Maybe the day I’ll order the arrest of any of them (ThisDay reporters).”
The judge specifically cited the case between Ifeanyi Uba and Access Bank.
“I don’t know what transpired between the two. All I know is that a case was filed at my court by Mr. Uba to restrain Access Bank from tampering with the assets of Capital Oil and Gas Limited.
“Access Bank was not represented in court. The court adjourned for ruling. On the day of the ruling, Access Bank was still not represented. What do you want me to do? If they had a previous contract between them that any disagreement between them would be entertained in a London court, shouldn’t Access Bank bring such information to the court? And argue on the grounds of jurisdiction?
“But ThisDay made it look like Ifeanyi Uba had bought over the court. The same court ruled that Ifeanyi Uba be remanded in prison custody during a criminal proceeding,” the judge said.
Judge’s allegations ridiculous
The newspaper owned by flamboyant businessman, Nduka Obaigbena, however, accused the judge of making ‘ridiculous’ claims.
In an email to PREMIUM TIMES’ inquiries, the Managing Director of ThisDay, Eniola Bello, said the judge’s allegations are “ridiculous” and unfair to the organisation.
He said it is improper for a judge to openly make allegations of the nature he made in a court.
“He could have written to us or get the court to write to us to say our reporter was wrong. We would have called the reporter to ask why he was wrong and if we were wrong we would have written an apology to say we were wrong like every other paper does,” Mr. Bello said.
He asked the judge to prove that the ThisDay reporter was bribed to manipulate the facts of court proceedings saying the reporter will be punished if there was such evidence.
“If he is saying the reporter collected money then he should show evidence that the reporter collected money. We don’t work on speculations and wild accusations.
“If he shows evidence that the reporter collected money, I will deal with the reporter. If the reporter collected money, that’s a different thing as the MD of this company I don’t know anything about reporters collecting money,” Mr. Bello said.