A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted an order restraining a senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ajibola Aribisala, from further publishing contemptuous advertorial or pre-empt the decision of the court in relation to a suit he instituted against Premium Steel and Mines Limited and six others pending before the court.
Justice Mohammed Idris gave the order while ruling on a contempt proceeding filed against Aribisala by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and its Director-General, Mustafa Chike-Obi.
They have prayed the court through their lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN to commit Aribisala to prison for alleged contempt of court committed in connection with the proceedings in the suit.
Chief Aribisala (as Receiver and Manager of Delta Steel Company Plc) had instituted suit No- FHC/L/CS/721/2015 against Premium Steel and Mines Limited, Prasanta Mishra, Karuna Karan, AMCON, Mustafa Chike-Obi and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Aribisala is challenging his removal by AMCON as Receiver Manager of Delta Steel Company Plc, and also challenging the sales of Delta steel Company to Premium Steel and Mines Limited.
However, while the matter was still pending in court, Chief Aribisala allegedly published an advertorial in two National newspapers on the subject matter before the court.
Consequently, AMCON through its lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) in a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Order 35 Rule1(1)of the Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 urged the court to commit Aribisala for contempt of court.
Nwobike argued that the conduct of the respondent in publishing to the whole world by his advertorials in two National newspapers was contemptuous of the power of the court.
Nwobike submitted that the publication was designed to negatively influence the course of trial and were meant to despised the applicants.
But, in his reply, Aribisala argued that the public notice did not qualify as contemptuous.
But, in his ruling, Justice Idris held that the alleged contemnor had the intention of overreaching the powers of the court when he published damaging advertorial on issues submitted to the court.
The court held that “not only has the publications overreached the confidence reposed in this court by the general public, they have in effect eroded the control the court as regards the facts and issues submitted for determination.
“It is the law that where litigation is pending before a court, as in this case, respect for the majestic powers of court dictates that parties desist from taking action(s) capable of prejudicing the powers and authority of court over the matter”.
Justice Idris further held that the publications sponsored by the alleged contemnor are classical examples of wanton disrespect to the court and aimed at exposing the court to ridicule “It is therefore clear that, the alleged contemnor being a senior advocate of Nigeria, knew what he wanted to achieve by his publications. He wanted to expose this court to ridicule and whittle down the. Power and authority of the court.
“I find and hold that the publications is not only contemptuous is an attempt at stealing the match by ensuring that AMCON and its Director General are convicted in the court of public opinion so that whatever the court decides at the end of the day will be rendered inconsequential,” the judge said.