The Chairman of the Code of Conduct of Tribunal, CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, has threatened to imprison journalists who misrepresent the ongoing proceedings on the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen is being prosecuted before the CCT by the Federal Government on charges of false and non-declaration of assets.
Reacting to what he described as the newspapers’ distortion and misrepresentation of last Monday’s proceedings of the trial, Umar said any journalist or medium who commits such infraction again might have to remain in prison until his retirement in 28 years’ time.
Umar, who brought copies of the newspapers that published the stories he complained about, made the remarks at the beginning of Thursday’s proceedings. He stated that he had arranged for the reporters to be picked up and hauled into prison but had a rethink.
According to him, “the last proceedings was on Monday March 18. That day Onnoghen’s counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, said the asset declaration forms were in loose form but they were admitted in evidence.
“On Tuesday March 19, ThisDay wrote, “Onnoghen accuses FG of mutilating his asset declaration form. Guardian also reported, “Drama as Onnoghen accuses FG of tampering with asset form. Pilot wrote, “Onnoghen accuses FG of doctoring asset declaration form”.
“This I consider mischievous, distortion of facts, misrepresentation of what transpired when the defence counsel said the asset declaration forms look loose.
“You are very lucky today, I would have used the full wrath of this tribunal to summon you. Send those who reported this misrepresentation of facts to prison.
“It offends the professional conduct of Journalism.
“I will not hesitate to deal decisively with any journalist who go about making misrepresentative statement during this proceedings.
“I have already summoned the special squad to pick those reporters to prison.
“Henceforth, any journalist carrying concocted or discredited statement which is not adduced before this tribunal, I will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law heavily on the person.
“The journalist will languish there (prison) and may remain there until I retire – that is about 28 years from now.
“The person will be summarily sent to prison because that is contempt.
“It does not matter whether the contempt is committed in facie curiae (before the court) or ex facie curiae (outside the court).”