Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday vowed to continue to preside in the case of corruption and money laundering against the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisha Metuh, in spite of the protest letter written by Metuh to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting that the matter be transferred to another judge.
Abang said: “On March 16, 2016, around 4p.m., the Chief Judge forwarded a copy of a letter from Emeka Etiaba (SAN), praying to transfer this case to another judge”.Insisting that he would always do everything on the side of justice, Abang said: “I have a circular written by my employer stating that where there is a petition seeking transfer of a case, the judge handling the matter should continue to preside over the matter until the Chief Judge takes a decision on the matter,” adding that: “he fears no evil.”
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in a seven-count charge accused Metuh of receiving the sum of N400 million from the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) through his company, Destra Investment Limited.
Metuh, in a no-case-submission, prayed the court to dismiss the charges against him for want of prima facie evidenc
However, the judge ruled that the EFCC had made a prima facie case of money laundering against him and that it’s left for him now to defend himself.
“The prosecution places sufficient material evidence before the court to show that the defendant has a case to answer,” Abang said.
The trial judge then dismissed the application of no-case submission by Metuh on the grounds that it was lacking in merit, and ordered Metuh to open his defence.
However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the defence, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), had requested for an adjournment following the unavailability of the lead counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), whom Adedipe said was expected to open the defence.
“In the light of Ikpeazu’s application after the reason he gave for seeking an adjournment, I will plead that your lordship grant this application to the court’s convenient date. If the date is not convenient, I will undertake to commence the defence with any witness available,” he said.
Responding, counsel to EFCC, Silvanus Tahir, expressed surprise noting that Adedipe has been speaking for the defence all along even though the lead counsel was around, wondering why Adedipe cannot proceed with the defence.
But before Justice Abang ruled for the application for an adjournment, he told the counsel he would like to ask a question and would also record their response.
The judge asked if they were aware that after eight witnesses have been called, examined and cross-examined, and a no case submission filed by the defence, defence counsel in the person of Emeka Etiaba SAN, wrote a petition to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, asking that this case be transferred to another court.
While the prosecution counsel claimed ignorance, defence counsel who did not state categorically whether he was aware or not however replied that any decision taken by a member of their team was a collective decision.
According to Abang, the petitioner in the letter accused him of making some decisions in favour of the prosecution; as the court refuses to release records of proceedings to the defence, adding that the accused person was his classmate.
While claiming ignorance of the fact that Metuh was his classmate, Abang stated that that would not have changed the fact in this case, adding that the court has been transparent enough and despite the tedious job that the court and the secretary had to do efforts were made to ensure that the court proceedings were released to the defendant.
He accused Etiaba for conducting himself in an unprofessional manner being a senior counsel, adding that Etiaba should have also copied the prosecution counsel seeing that he is also a party to the case.
While ruling on the application for adjournment, Abang noted that though the court has adjourned on three occasions on the instance of the defence he would nevertheless grant the adjournment.
He therefore fixed March 23 for the defendant to open his defence.