Court Rules Metuh’s Trial To Proceed In His Absence

…Summons Channels TV reporter, General Manager

The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that the criminal trial of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, will henceforth proceed in his absence.

Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling on Wednesday, said the court was entitled to proceed with the trial in Metuh’s absence, considering the defendant’s previous several attempts to frustrate the trial and the way he allegedly conducted himself after he fell down in court on Monday.

The judge ruled, “The application by prosecution deserves to succeed.

“The trial shall proceed in the absence of the defendant. See Section 266(a) and section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.”

The court also summoned the General Manager of the Channels Television in Abuja and a presenter with the television, Mrs. Maupe Ogun-Yusuf, to appear before the court on May 25.

The judge said the television’s officials were being summoned in respect of the prosecution’s allegation that the television aired prejudicial statements allegedly made by a lawyer in Metuh’s defence team, Mr. Ben Chuks Nwosu, during the medium’s Tuesday’s edition of Sunrise Daily.

Metuh fell down as he was making his way to the dock on Monday.

He was later taken away in the court’s ambulance and has since been absent from court during both the Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s proceedings.

But Justice Abang held on Wednesday that Metuh deliberately fell down on Monday.

The judge noted that Metuh chose to deliberately ignore the lawful directive of the court instructing him to remain seated and not to go into the dock.

He said Metuh chose to move towards the dock and then fell down.

He said Metuh went on to disturb proceedings by whimpering and groaning loudly “to give the impression that he was in pains” and made the court to look like an accident scene.

Dasukigate: Supreme Court Rejects Metuh’s Appeal

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, should face trial for alleged fraud.

Mr. Metuh is standing trial for allegedly diverting N400 million from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

The trial judge, Okon Abang, had in March 2016 ruled that Mr. Metuh and his company, Destra Investment, had a case to answer in the seven-count charge of fraud brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal in May 2016, resulting in a Supreme Court appeal.

In a ruling Friday, the Supreme Court gave the same reasons given by the Court of Appeal for refusing Mr. Metuh’s request.

According to the Court of Appeal, Mr. Metuh’s motion was regarded incompetent for failing to comply with constitutional provisions for the filing of such appeal.

The court said Mr. Metuh was wrong to have brought the appeal without first seeking the leave of the lower court, or that of the Appeal Court itself.

The Appeal Court therefore ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter, given the defective manner with which the suit was filed.

In a similar opinion, on Friday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Dattijo Mohammed, said the court could not entertain a suit with a fundamental defect, emanating from the nature of filing at the lower court.

The unanimous judgement was read by Justice Ejembi Eko. The apex court said its decision was based on section 233 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.

“Where the Court of Appeal lacks the necessary jurisdiction, in the first place, to hear and determine the appeal before it, such as in the instant case, no decision of the court against the competent appeal lies to this court.

“It is for that reason I strike out the incompetent appeal and affirm the judgment of the lower court below,” Mr. Eko ruled.

Appear On Feb 5 Or Go To Jail – Court Tells Metuh

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, to be in court on February 5 or be arrested and sent to jail.

The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang ruled that Metuh had been absent from his trial since Monday without any lawful excuse, a development which the judge said was a sufficient reason to revoke the defendant’s bail.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, on seven counts, including an allegation of fraudulent receipt of the sum of N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014.

The charges also include the allegations that the ex-spokesperson for the PDP transacted with $2m cash which was said to be above the threshold of cash payment prescribed by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

Metuh was absent from the proceedings since Monday on the excuse that he was on admission at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State for treatment of an ailment.

On Tuesday, his lawyer, Dr. Oneychi Ikpeazu (SAN), sought an adjournment of the case till a period outside this week.

EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, opposed the application for adjournment, described the medical report of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital relied upon to ask for the adjournment, as a trash meant for the dustbin.

Tahir in opposing the application for an adjournment asked the court to revoke Metuh’s bail and send the defendant to prison form where he should be made to attend his trial.

Ruling, ‎Justice Abang said the medical report relied on by Metuh to stay away from court was fraudulently smuggled into the court’s file and aimed at forcing the court to stay proceedings in the trial indefinitely.

Justice Abang held that EFCC’s application for the revocation of Metuh’s bail deserved to be granted, but that the court decided to suspend taking such step in order to afford the defendant another opportunity “to turn over a new leaf”.

He agreed with Tahir to the effect the hospital’s letter dated January 21, 2018, indicating that Metuh had been on admission since the previous day for treatment for an ailment was sent to the court to frustrate the trial.

He queried why the medical report had to be issued barely 24 hours to the resumption of the trial on January 22.

In the absence of an explanation from defence lawyers, the judge also queried how the letter issued in Nnewi, Anambra State, could find its way to the court’s file in Abuja within 24 hours.

He said the letter was fraudulently smuggled into the court’s file and defence lawyers chose to rely on it to ask for an adjournment yet refused to disclose the identity of the person who sent the document to the court.

He noted that the “lengthy letter” by the hospital laced with many medical terms, was meant to confuse the court.

“How will the court, not being an expert in the medical field, be able to understand it, if not to confuse the court and give the impression that the ailment is serious?” the judge asked.

He ruled that, the letter having not been filed before the court through established procedure and without any indication on it linking it to the trial, the EFCC’s lawyer was right to describe it as “a trash meant for the dustbin”.

Noting that the letter failed to state the period that the defendant must be on bed rest, the judge said it could imply that the court had to adjourn the case indefinitely.

According to the judge, the application was tantamount to an application for stay of proceedings, which had been prohibited in criminal trials by the Supreme Court.

Justice Abang ruled, “That means the court will be forced to adjourned sine die (indefinitely).

“It is my humble view that this sounds like an application for stay of proceedings.

“It is not just a medical report but an application for stay of proceedings.”

He recalled that the Supreme Court had in its judgment delivered on June 9, 2017, on an appeal by Metuh prohibited stay of proceedings in a criminal trial.

He also recalled that the Supreme Court, delivering judgment in an appeal by Metuh’s firm and co-defendant, Destra Investments Limited, on January 12, 2018, had ordered the Federal Court to give the case an accelerated hearing.

He added, “Any purported medical report that will act as a stay of proceedings ought to be rejected by the court.

“The medical report was fraudulently smuggled into the court’s file.

“I agree with the learned counsel for the prosecution that it a trash meant for the dustbin. It is a useless paper only dumped on the court.”

He, however, said out of human sympathy he would consider the plea by defence lawyers by adjourning the case till February 5.

The judge said, “‎In view of the passionate plea by the learned senior counsel for the first and second defendants, I hereby suspend my decision to revoke the bail granted to the first defendant.

“I hereby give him another chance to turn over a new leaf.

“Where the situation remains the same at the next adjourned date, this court shall exercise its power of revoking the bail.

“This matter is adjourned till February 5 and 6 for continuation of trial.”

The judge also ruled that Metuh’s application for adjournment as argued on Tuesday and Wednesday had been overtaken by events since by his (Metuh’s) conduct, the court had been unable to record progress in the case since Monday.

But he granted the application by Metuh, whose ninth witness has yet to conclude his testimony, to call additional 10 witnesses.

The judge ruled that, that Metuh had engaged in different ploys to frustrate the trial and attempts, “to hijack the proceedings”.

“The first defendant has overstretched the patience of the court beyond limit in these proceedings,” the judge added.

He, therefore, ruled that the court would no longer accept any medical report from Metuh.

The judge also ruled that the court would no longer entertain any application for adjournment to enable the defendant to call any witness.

He, therefore, directed that all the remaining witnesses Metuh had to call must always be in court for all proceedings.

Both defence lawyers, Ikpeazu and Onwugbufor, thanked the judge for showing sympathy to Metuh.

Promising not to engage in anything to stall the trial, they also noted that the judge had always been giving the case an accelerated hearing before the January 12, 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court.

EFCC Asks Court To Revoke Metuh’s Bail, Send Him To Prison

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail being enjoyed by a former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) Olisa Metuh.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, are being prosecuted for fraudulently receiving the sum of N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014.

The trial was adjourned on Monday, January 22 after he was said to be on admission at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State making him be absent from court.

The prosecution during the hearing on Tuesday, January 23 then asked the court to revoke Metuh’s bail and commit him to prison to ensure that he attends his trial.

EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Sylvanus Tahir who was reacting to an application seeking for the further adjournment of the case because of Metuh’s ill health accused the defence of trying to scuttle the trial.

He said that besides the letter which cannot be proven to be from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching hospital Mr Metuh has also filed an application to bring additional 10 witnesses two years after his trial proves that the defence is trying to frustrate the trial.

Responding to Tahir, Metuh’s lawyer, Oneychi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the application for bail revocation.

He argued that the prosecution has not shown that his client is a flight risk, or is interfering with witnesses or the trial as stipulated by law to warrant a revocation of bail.

He then urged the court to adjourn the trial till a period after the end of the week, promising that Metuh would be in court by then.

I Will Not Testify Unless Jonathan Appears In Court – Metuh

A former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, insisted before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday that whether or not he would testify or call additional witnesses in his ongoing trial would be dependent on what former President Goodluck Jonathan would tell the court in respect of the case.

His lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), and the counsel representing his company — Destra Investments Limited — Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), had earlier said this before the court on Monday.

But the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang had, in a ruling on Monday, dismissed the submission as unknown to law.

The judge stuck to the decision on Tuesday and ordered that Metuh would continue his defence on Wednesday, while ‎the court bailiff would make another attempt to serve Jonathan on December 11.

“Whether a party will call a witness or not cannot be predicated on the evidence of a witness yet to be called,” Justice Abang ruled again on Tuesday.

But Etiaba said he would appeal against the judge’s decisions.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had alleged in some of the seven counts preferred against Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, that the ex-PDP spokesperson fraudulently received the sum of N400m from Office of the National Security Adviser without any justification and spent the funds on the party’s and personal affairs.

Metuh was also accused of transacting with $2m cash said to be above the threshold of cash payments prescribed by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

But Metuh had insisted that both the then NSA, Sambo Dasuki, who released the sum of N400m and, and Jonathan, who allegedly authorised the payment, were required to testify in the case.

While the summons served on Dasuki had been successfully executed, following which the ex-NSA had testified in the case, the court bailiff had so far been unable to serve Jonathan personally.

On Monday, while ordering the court bailiff to make another attempt to serve Jonathan with the witness summons, the judge insisted that the trial must continue with Metuh either testifying himself or calling another witness other than the former President as his next witness.

The judge then fixed Tuesday for continuation of trial.

But at the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Metuh’s lawyer, Etiaba, insisted that Metuh still wanted Jonathan to first testify before deciding on whether or not the defendant would personally testify in the case.

Jonathan May Receive Subpoena On Metuh’s Case Dec 11

A bailiff of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday gave an indication that he would, on December 11, 2017, might be able to serve former President Goodluck Jonathan the subpoena summoning him to testify as a defence witness in the trial of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh.

This was contained in an affidavit filed by the bailiff informing the court that several attempts to serve the former President in his Abuja home had failed.

The bailiff, whose affidavit was read by a court registrar during the Monday’s proceedings, stated that at the last attempt to serve Jonathan, a guard said the former President, said to have travelled abroad, would only be available on December 11.

Reading from the bailiff’s affidavit, the registrar said the bailiff was asked to return to the residence in the afternoon of December 11 to serve the former President.

In response, Metuh’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), said he, the lead defence counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), and Metuh himself, had received threats to their lives following their move to have Jonathan summoned to testify in the case.

But he said the threat would not yield to the threat as they would insist Jonathan testify in the case.

Etiaba said, “This subpoena is one that has generated quite a lot of controversy, not just to our client but to myself.

“The threat goes to the life of the first defendant, myself and Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu.

“This will not make us change our mind as to whether His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, will come and testify or not. But we shall only plead with this honourable court to allow the make another attempt on December 11, 2017 at serving him with the subpoena.”