Metuh’s Trial: Court Orders Ex-President Jonathan To Appear On Wednesday

The Justice of the Federal High Court in Abuja  Justice Okon Aban on Tuesday confirmed that he had signed a subpoena compelling former President Goodluck Jonathan to appear in court on Wednesday to testify in defence of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh.

However, it is clear now as this confirms the story published on Tuesday that the judge signed the subpoena to be served on Jonathan after retiring back to chambers at the end of Monday’s proceedings.

The judge confirmed this on Tuesday during the resumed trial of Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, on seven counts of money laundering involving alleged cash transaction of $2m and fraudulent receipt of N400m meant for procurement of arms from the Office of the National Security Adviser.

‎Confirming the summons on Jonathan on Tuesday, Justice Abang said he received Metuh’s application for a subpoena to be issued on Jonathan at about 3.59pm on Monday.

The judge said, “Indeed, at the close of business yesterday being October 23, 2017, precisely at about 3.59pm, the registrar forwarded to the court in the chamber a subpoena to compel former President Goodluck Jonathan to appear in court to testify a the instance of the first defendant (Metuh).

“Therefore in line with section 241(1) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and having regard to the subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal in the appeal CA/A/159C/2017, between Olisa Metuh and Federal Republic of Nigeria dated September 29, 2017 to the effect that it will be tantamount to violating the right of the first defendant to fair hearing not to sign the subpoena.

“I have no option other than to sign a subpoena to compel former President Goodluck Jonathan to appear in court on September 25, 2017 (Wednesday)to give evidence at the instance of the first defendant.”

But while being interrogated by the judge on Tuesday, a registrar of the court said the bailiff of the court had yet to serve the subpoena on Jonathan as of Tuesday morning.

Most of Metuh’s defence witnesses, including Mr. Ben Nwosu, who ended his testimony earlier on Monday, had insisted that the sum of N400m paid to the ex-spokesperson for the PDP from the Office of the NSA in November 2014, the money being part of the case against Metuh, was directly authorised by Jonathan.

Metuh, had therefore through his lead counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), told Justice Abang on Monday that he would seek to subpoena the ex-President as a defence witness.

Ikpeazu said the defence had written formally to Jonathan notifying him of the intention to have him testify in court but that the former President did not reply.

Court Orders INEC To Accept Jimoh Ibrahim As PDP Candidate

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to accept businessman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the forthcoming governorship election.
Ibrahim had emerged candidate of the Ali Modu Sheriff led faction of the party late August.

The election is scheduled to hold on November 26 in Ondo State.

Justice Okon Abang gave the order for the enforcement of his earlier judgment delivered on June 29, 2016.

The ruling means that Eyitayo Jegede currently recognised by INEC as the governorship candidate will be dropped for Jimoh Ibrahim.

Ibrahim earlier in the week said unless there a divine intervention, economic recession in Nigeria may linger on for another 20 years.

The businessman stated this while delivering a speech at a book launch at the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU.

“With the current crude oil prices and current situation of the country, except there is a miracle that will chance the situation, we may be experiencing this recession for 20 years.

“Our Naira has lost its value and this is the worst recession I have seen in many years and nothing seems to be happening,” he said.

Court Turns Down Request To Release El-Zakzaky

A Federal High Court, Abuja, has declined the application of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, seeking his immediate release from detention by the Department of State Services (DSS).

El-Zakzaky is the leader of Shi`a Movement in Nigeria.

Justice Abang, who declined the application, said that Zakzaky ought to have obtained the leave of court for the matter to be heard during vacation.

He explained that the applicant failed to serve the DSS, the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation joined as respondents.

The judge said that the matter was initially assigned to Justice Gabriel Kolawole by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

Abang, therefore, said that the application was not competent and struck it out.

PDP Woes Continue As Court Nullifies Port-Harcourt Convention, Affirms Sheriff As Chairman

A Federal High Court siting in Abuja has nullified the national convention held by the Peoples Democratic Party on May 21 in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
It was at that convention that the National Working Committee of the party led by former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff was dissolved and a caretaker committee led by former Governor Ahmed Markarfi was constituted.
Mr. Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, has since then been challenging his removal and has insisted that he remained the legitimate leader of Nigeria’s leading opposition party.
But ruling in a fresh case brought before his court on Thursday, Justice Okon Abang said the May 21 convention was illegal and that Mr. Makarfi’s committee was unlawfully constituted.
Justice Abang gave the ruling while determining the rightful counsel to represent the PDP in the new case.
Mr. Sheriff is asking the court to determine whether his replacement by Mr. Makarfi was lawful or an abuse of court orders.
The Lagos division of the Federal High Court had issued a court order restraining the PDP from conducting election into the offices of its national chairman, national secretary and national auditor.
The ruling by Justice Ibrahim Buba was made sequel to an application brought by Mr. Sheriff and his colleagues who occupied those positions.

The application had intended to prevent elections of new party leaders at the May 21 convention.
But on May 21, the PDP held its convention in Port Harcourt where Mr. Makarfi was appointed to lead a caretaker committee, a development that sparked a fresh round of crisis in the party, with Mr. Sheriff insisting that he remained the legitimate chairman of the fold.
The two contenders sent two different lawyers to Justice Abang’s court on Thursday, both claiming to represent the national chairman of the party.
The court listened to the two lawyers – Ferdinand Obi and Adeniyi Akintola — to enable it to determine who should be the legal representative of the PDP in the matter.
Giving his ruling, Mr. Abang ruled that in determining who should be the rightful counsel to the PDP, it was necessary to decide whether the caretaker committee led by Mr. Makarfi was rightly constituted or not.
“The convention was unlawfully held and the caretaker committee was unlawfully constituted,” the judge ruled.
“If the Markarfi-led faction, as an apostle of impunity, missed its way to the Port Harcourt division of the FHC, the court cannot be said to have acted within its legal jurisdiction in entertaining the matter,” Mr. Abang said.
He urged politicians to desist from creating confusion for judges.
Prior to his ruling, the counsel argued for over seven hours.
Mr. Obi, who represented the Makarfi faction, argued that it was illegal for the Deputy National Legal Adviser of the Sheriff faction , Bashir Maidugu, to file the suit and then also receive court processes on behalf of his faction.
“The plaintiff has no authority to receive documents for PDP, whom he has sued as the second defendant,” he said
He further cited a previous ruling by the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court, which ruled that the decisions taken at the May 21 convention were completely legal.
He added that the court held in that judgment that nothing in the decision of the convention amounted to an abuse of the law.
But responding, Mr. Akintola, who represented the Sheriff faction, said his client received the processes for the matter as part of his official responsibility as a legal officer representing the PDP.

“I submit that the plaintiff has power to act in plural capacity. He is a lawyer and the legal officer for the PDP,” Mr. Akintola said.
He added that the previous case cited by Mr. Obi did not make categorical statement as to who should represent the PDP, adding that the decision of his client to act in his statutory position should not amount to an abuse of law.
“We urge the court to hold that we are counsel for the PDP and that my learned brother should cease to appear for the PDP,” he said.
In his ruling, Justice Abang noted that there was an order restraining the party from conducting election into the offices of national chairman, national secretary and auditor pending the hearing and determination of a substantive suit at the Lagos decision of the Federal High Court.
“Where the court in Port Harcourt had no jurisdiction for entertaining such matters, a court of coordinate jurisdiction has legal prerogative to nullify the decision reached at the Port Harcourt division of the court,” he said.
Responding, Mr. Obi prayed the court for an adjournment, saying the issues raised were weighty and important for the determination of the matter.
“They should therefore not be resolved hastily,” he said.
Responding, Justice Abang said the May 21 convention was held despite the decision of the court, and that the Port Harcourt division wrongly assumed jurisdiction which led to the July 4 judgement that nullified the decision of the Lagos Division of the court.
He therefore ruled that the decision of Mr. Obi to ask for adjournment rather than respond to the question posed to him was not meritorious and therefore his prayer for adjournment refused.

Court Orders Metuh To Open Defence On April 11

Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh,to open his defence in his trial for money laundering.

Justice Abang gave the directive after dismissing a number of Metuh’s applications, including one asking the judge to withdraw from the case and another asking for indefinite adjournment.

Metuh had requested an indefinite adjournment pending when the Court of Appeal would hear and determine his appeal against the court’s ruling dismissing his no-case submission and his motion for stay of proceedings of his trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Metuh and his firm before Justice Abang on seven counts of money laundering including $2m cash transaction.

Part of the charges preferred against them also bordered on the N400m which the accused allegedly received fraudulently from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014.

Another lawyer, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN)‎, who took over the defence of Metuh’s firm on Friday, also made series of oral applications for adjournment which were all dismissed by the court.

The judge said Metuh and his firm were no longer entitled to any further adjournment having exhausted the five times such request could be granted to them under section 396(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

Since the prosecution closed its case, the judge recalled that the matter had been adjourned on February 4, 9, March 9, 17 and 24, all at the instance of the defendants.

But the judge subsequently decided to ‎adjourn the case “at the instance of the court” to enable him to attend to other cases on the list.

‎Earlier, the judge had dismissed an application asking him to disqualify himself from further presiding over the trial.

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, had also in a March 24, 2016 letter dismissed Metuh’s petition asking for the transfer of the case from Justice Abang to another judge.

Justice Abang dismissed the application by Metuh for lacking in merit after entertaining arguments in support of it by the PDP spokesperson’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), and against it by the counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir.

The accused had sent the petition against the judge and filed the application asking him to withdraw from the case after the prosecution closed its case with eight witness and they were called upon to open their defence.

Both the petition and the motion were based on allegation of bias leveled against the judge.

Ruling on the application Friday, Justice Abang ruled that the allegation of bias against him was baseless.

“It is my considered view that the application lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed,” the judge ruled.

The application by Metuh, through his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN) asking the judge to disqualify himself was based on the allegation that the judge had been bias in the handling of the case.

The same allegation was part of the grounds in an earlier petition by Metuh’s lawyer asking the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Auta, to withdraw the case from Justice Abang and reassign it to another judge.

The Chief Judge had however dismissed the petition on the grounds that it was too late in the day to reassign a case in which the prosecution had called its witnesses.

Justice Abang restated in his ruling on Friday that the there was no evidence adduced by Metuh’s lawyer in support of the application asking him to withdraw from the case.
“The honourable Chief Judge has said he was satisfied with my explanation to the petition,” he ruled.
The lawyer claimed in the application that Metuh was a classmate of the judge in the 1987/1988 set of the Nigerian Law School.
As stated in his petition to the Chief Judge, the lawyer also accused the judge of denying his client fair hearing by refusing to release to the defence team a copy of the records of proceedings of the court to enable them to appeal against some decisions of the judge in the course of the trial.
He alleged that the defence applied for the record of proceedings on February 8, 2016 to enable the defence to appeal against some decisions of the court, but that one month and one week later, the judge had yet to release it to the defence.
Metuh also claimed in the application that he would likely be denied fair hearing in the case due to a losgstanding “frosty relationship” between him and the judge.
Etiaba had also claimed in the petition that Metuh and the judge both practised law in Lagos before the PDP spokesperson relocated to Abuja and Justice Abang on his part was appointed a judge.

Etiaba also alleged that Metuh met and had discussion with Justice Abang late last year in Meridien Hotel in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, adding that his client was baffled at the views expressed by the judge during their encounter.

Justice Abang is now taking arguments on Metuh’s application for adjournment of his trial indefinitely pending the hearing and determination of his appeal against the ruling of the judge dismissing his no-case submission.

The Punch

Chief Judge Dismisses Metuh’s Petition, Asks Judge To Continue Trial

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, has dismissed the petition by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, seeking the transfer of his trial for money laundering from Justice Okon Abang to another judge.

Justice Auta’s letter responding to the petition by Metuh, a copy of which was obtained on Thursday, stated that it was too late in the day to reassign the case in which the prosecution had already called all its witnesses.

The Chief Judge’s letter, dated March 24, 2016, signed by his Special Assistant, Mr. Ambrose Unaeze, was addressed to one of Metuh’s lawyers, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), who had signed and sent the petition on behalf of his client.

Etiaba sent the petition to the Chief Judge, accusing Justice Abang of bias in the handling of the case after his clients were called upon to open their defence.

The lawyer claimed in the petition that Metuh was a classmate of the judge in the 1987/1988 set of the Nigerian Law School.

He claimed that Metuh and the judge both practised law in Lagos before the PDP spokesperson relocated to Abuja, and Justice Abang, on his part, was appointed a judge.

Etiaba also alleged that Metuh met and had discussion with Justice Abang late last year in the Meridien Hotel in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, adding that his client was baffled at the views expressed by the judge during their encounter.

The lawyer also accused the judge of denying his client fair hearing by refusing to release to the defence team a copy of the records of proceedings of the court to enable them to appeal against some decisions of the judge in the course of the trial.

He alleged that the defence applied for the record of proceedings on February 8, 2016, to enable the defence to appeal against some decisions of the court, but that one month and one week later, the judge had yet to release it to the defence.

However, in his response to the petition through his Special Assistant (Unaneze), the Chief Judge said he could no longer take any administrative action on the case, considering the stage at which the matter was.

He advised that the only option open to the defendants was to file an application asking Justice Abang to disqualify himself from further handling the case.

Unaneze stated, “I refer you to your letter of March 16, 2016, and after a careful perusal of your application and the reasons stated therein, the Hon. Chief Judge has directed me to inform you that it is too late in the day for his Lordship to take administrative action with regard to your application.
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“This is so because the parties have already joined issues but are at liberty to file an application before the judge for his consideration and appeal if not satisfied with whatever decision he may take.

“Please accept the assurances of My Lord, the Hon. Chief Judge.”

The defendants had since filed an application before the judge, asking him to disqualify himself from further presiding over the case and return the file to the Chief Judge.

The judge will today (Friday) hear the application which is predicated on the same allegation of bias against him.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Metuh and his firm before Justice Abang on seven counts of money laundering, including $2m cash transaction.

Part of the charges preferred against them also bordered on the N400m which the accused allegedly received fraudulently from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014.

Meanwhile, Justice Abang, who presides over Metuh’s trial in the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, will today (Friday) hear a fresh application by the PDP spokesperson, asking the judge (Justice Abang) to disqualify himself from further presiding over the case.

Metuh’s fresh application is predicated on the same allegation of bias levelled against the judge in the March 16, 2016 petition which was sent on his behalf by one of his lawyers, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), to the Chief Judge of the court.

Justice Abang had earlier denied all the allegations in his response sent to the Chief Judge.

The judge stated that he could not recall either seeing Metuh while at the Nigerian Law School or coming across him while practising as a lawyer anywhere in the country before he (Abang) was appointed a judge in June 2009.

Justice Abang stated that contrary to Metuh’s claim, he never attended any function at the Uyo hotel where the PDP’s spokesperson claimed they met late last year.

He added that he did not see Metuh at the Law School class reunion meetings which he recently attended in Abuja, Lagos and Enugu.

The judge also denied the allegation that he deliberately withheld the record of proceedings to scuttle Metuh’s plan to appeal against some of the court’s decisions.