- Court adjourns Metuh’s trial on health grounds
- Sends Lai Mohammed’s N500m libel suit for mediation
Akinwale Akintunde in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja wednesday announced that she would no longer handle the trial of the former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro.
Moro is currently being tried by the federal government on corruption-related offenses.
The judge wednesday told parties in the matter that she was returning the case file back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for reassignment to another judge.
She gave no reason for the withdrawal.
Consequently, counsel in the matter left the court one after the other when the reality dawned on them that the trial would not go on after all.
Addressing journalists shortly after proceedings, counsel to the first defendant, Akinolu Kehinde said: “We are ready for hearing but, the learned trial judge for personal reasons is transferring the case back to the chief judge for reassignment and we respect that. I am saying this so that there won’t be any need for speculation. Just take it that the matter has been sent to the chief judge for reassignment.
“We are not reading any ulterior motive to it at all as this happens from time to time.”
The federal government had arraigned Moro and four others on an 11-count charge of advance fee fraud, money laundering and breach of the Procurement Act.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges, but Moro was however, granted bail on self recognition.
A number of persons lost their lives in the recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Services in 2014.
Meanwhile Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja has adjourned till May 17 and 18, the trial of the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on January 15, 2016 arraigned Metuh and his firm, Destra Investments Limited, before the court on a seven-count charge of money laundering involving $2million cash transaction.
The decision according to Justice Abang was based on consideration of the health of the first defendant who was reportedly ill. Metuh was seen in court yesterday, when the matter came up for hearing.
At the last adjournment, a defence witness (DW1), Ike Abonyi, had told the court that Metuh’s trial was politically-motivated.
Abonyi, a media consultant to the PDP who made the disclosure during a cross-examination by counsel to the second defendant, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), said Metuh’s ordeals were as a result of his role as the spokesman for the PDP.
According to him, “a lot us, committed members of the PDP believed that Metuh got into trouble because of the role he played, as the spokesman for the opposition Party.
At the next hearing of the matter, the defence is expected to call on its second witness.
Also, Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of an Ikeja High Court has directed that the N500 million libel suit filed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, against the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, be taken to mediation court.
The judge, who gave the directive yesterday, said the progress report of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) would determine a trial date for the suit.
“The file should be taken to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Prompt Administrator to set the ADR in motion.
“Now that pleadings have been closed, seven days from today please head to ADR Centre for mediation of this dispute,” Ipaye ruled.
Earlier in the proceedings, Metuh’s lawyer, U.A. Otoahine, filed two applications dated April 25 which were granted by the court.
He said: “My Lord, the first application is requesting for an extension of time to file the statement of defence and originating processes. “The second application is seeking an extension of time to file a counter-affidavit.”
Justice Ipaye, however, refused to hear the application brought by counsel to the minister, Wahab Shittu, that the case should be set down for trial.
Mohammed, a former National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had on October 12, 2015 instituted a libel suit against Metuh, demanding N500 million as compensation for the defamation of his person by Metuh through a statement he authored and circulated on September 20, 2015.
“It is a comedy of roles when Alhaji Lai Mohammed speaks on corruption, a topic he practices and has well learnt, being a personal aide to one of the most corrupt politicians to ever bestride the political landscape of the country.”
Mohammed, who was a one-time coordinator of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, claimed that Metuh had injured his character in a grave manner and caused him considerable reputational destruction and embarrassment.
According to him, Metuh’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had in a letter dated September 25, 2015 to the claimant’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, admitted authoring the statement but denied that it was Mohammed that was being referred to.
Mohammed, however, quoted Etiaba to have also referred to an earlier statement where Mohammed also attacked Metuh by stating that “the allegations of corruption hanging on his (Metuh) neck, from within his own party, is a clear indication that he is mortally afraid that the wind will soon blow hard enough to expose the fowl’s rump…”
Mohammed said he made the statement based on a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) written against Metuh on July 15, 2015 by the PDP, Nkwelle-Ezunaka Ward 1, in the Oyi Local Government chapter of Anambra State.
Justice Ipaye adjourned the case till June 13 for a progress report from the ADR centre.