How Metuh’s Case Became a Media Circus

0

Justice Okon Abang might have mismanaged the corruption trial of the PDP spokesperson, Chief Olisa Metuh, writesEneh Victor Chigozie

Many Nigerians have followed the trial of the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh closely. Interestingly, the court trial has now been subjected to media trial. Justice Okon Abang seems to have allowed this high profile corruption case to assume a dimension, where his integrity in delivering a fair unbiased judgment is already being questioned.

Presently, Justice Abang is in the eyes of the public on how he intends to wriggle himself out of the accusation that he is either out to settle old scores with Metuh, being his old class mate at the Lagos Law School or he is under pressure from high quarters external from the judiciary to jail for reasons other than the charges brought against him by the EFCC.

The curious thing here is that somehow, it was the learned Judge himself that started the entire brouhaha of externalising court procedures as related to the Metuh case and making them subject of media discourse.
I was indeed surprised reading on the pages of the newspapers the response of Justice Abang to the Chief Judge of Abuja Federal High Court over Metuh’s petition asking the CJ to transfer his case to another judge, when the petitions is still before the CJ.

I recalled that Justice Abang had in the open court declared Metuh’s petition to the CJ and his response as public documents, open to the media and that the next day, the media went agog with his response. I then wondered how the trial shifted from the court room to the newsroom. The question then is: what does Abang want to achieve by shifting the trial to the media? What actually is the interest of Justice Abang on this trial?

I am aware and it is on record that whenever an accused, who is standing trial alleges bias over any jury, that the jury usually disqualifies herself from such case to save the integrity of the judiciary and the bench. Why is it that Justice Abang wants to try Metuh by all means despite the position of the defendant and the already simmering public debate regarding the ability of a judge that has already joined issues with the accused to deliver justice?

Even in village meetings, people object to inclusion of some perceived opponents or enemies from being included into committees to probe or investigate issues concerning them. Why is Metuh’s case different?
In the same high court, Abuja, Justice Ahmed Muhammad recently disqualified himself from the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, and returned the case file to the Chief Judge to be re-assigned to another judge because Kanu raised an objection on the sincerity of the federal government to give him a fair trial. Justice Muhammad does not want to be seen as a tool in the hands of the federal government in the case, so he hands off the case.

Just last week, Justice Abdul Kafarati of the same Abuja Federal High Court disqualified himself from presiding over the corruption charges against the senate president, Bukola Saraki over a media report of compromise. So why is Justice Abang insisting on trying Metuh despite cries of bias from the defendant. Justice Abang is even insisting sitting as judge over a motion filed by the defendants asking him to disqualify himself on account of ensuing public altercations between him and the defence.

Another curious issues is that Justice Abang in an open court, as well as in his response to Metuh’s petition denied knowing Chief Olisa Metuh even after one of their classmates at Law School, Lagos and a respected Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the immediate past Chairman National Human Rights Commission, confirmed same in an interview.

“Abang surely knows that he and Olisa went to school together. We were all in the same law school set in 1988. We were all admitted to the Bar same day on November 3, 1988. Fashola, Anyim, Godswill Akpabio, Liyel Imoke, Nnia Nwodo all were in that set. I know Olisa and justice Abang have been together at more than two class reunions in Lagos, Uyo. Someone isn’t being totally candid.”

The above confirmation statement from Prof Chidi Odinkalu is enough for Justice Abang to stop wasting the time of the court and disqualify himself from the case. If he has scores to settle with Metuh, he can exploit other means, but not in this case unless he is under pressure from external forces to deal with the opposition spokesman.

His insistence on continuing this trial will indicate he has a special interest to jail Olisa Metuh for whatever reason best known to him. The best thing for him at this point is to save the judiciary and himself further embarrassment and disqualify himself from the case. If he does so, he will be hailed for showing high level sense of fairness and as a judge.
– Chigozie, a rights advocate, wrote from Enugu

Quote
Justice Okon Abang seems to have allowed this high profile corruption case to assume a dimension, where his integrity in delivering a fair unbiased judgment is already being questioned…Presently, Justice Abang is in the eyes of the public on how he intends to wriggle himself out of the accusation that he is either out to settle old scores with Metuh, being his old class mate at the Lagos Law School or he is under pressure from high quarters