- Dismisses Metuh’s no-case submission
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja wednesday affirmed the decision of the Federal High Court denying the bail application by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
Kanu, alongside two others, Benjamin Madubgwu and James Nwawuisi, are facing a six-count treason charge preferred against them by the federal government at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
He had on May 5 approached the appeal court through his counsel, Chucks Muoma, challenging the decision of the Federal High Court to deny him bail and also held that federal government’s witnesses should shield their identities.
Dismissing the appeal on the ground of lacking in merit, Justice Aboki who read the judgment of a three-member panel, said it was not in doubt the 1st defendant, Kanu, had dual citizenship stressing that Kanu’s possession of both Nigerian and British passports increased the likelihood that he could jump bail if released from detention.
The court also ruled that the charges against Kanu and his co-accused were grievous and involved a threat to the state, therefore an application for bail would not be entertained.
Aboki who affirmed the ruling of Justice Tsoho noted that the Federal High Court acted within its jurisdiction in the said ruling.
Kanu had through his counsel asked the court to determine whether the ruling by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court was not an aberration of Kanu’s fundamental rights as stipulated in the Constitution.
He also prayed the appellate court to determine whether or not Tsoho was right in making Kanu’s dual citizenship an excuse for refusing him bail.
Kanu and his co-defendants, through their lawyer, Chief Chuks Muoma (SAN), argued before the appellate court that Justice Tsoho erred in law “when having refused the application for the witnesses of the prosecution to testify behind screens, or maskes” on February 19, 2016, “suddenly varied the said order in the ruling delivered on March 7, 2016, on a mere oral application by the respondent.”
They maintained that the variation order was made on the basis of a mere oral application by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mohammed Diri, who had informed the trial court that witnesses scheduled to testify against the defendants said they would not appear unless they were allowed to wear masks or their identities shielded from both lawyers and people observing the proceeding.
Justice Tsoho gave an order permitting the witnesses to testify behind a screen, stressing that the decision did not amount to a variation of a previous ruling that prohibited the witnesses from appearing in mask.
The three defendants had earlier opposed FG’s application for secret trial, even as they queried the propriety of the court allowing “masquerades” to testify against them.
Meanwhile, the Appeal Court in Abuja yesterday dismissed the application filed by former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman, Olisa Metuh, challenging the ruling against his (Metuh) no case submission in March 2016.
The three-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki in a unanimous decision held that questions posed by Justice Abang Okon of the federal high court, in the said ruling, were in order, and that Metuh ought to open his case and proceed with his defence as he presently has.
Metuh had approached the court of appeal to challenge the ruling by Justice Abang against his no case submission, alleging that the said ruling had pre-determined his position in the trial ahead of its determination.
Counsel to the appellant, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), had prayed the court to determine whether certain questions posed by Justice Abang, ahead of the ruling, were indeed not meant to shift the burden of proof against his client and compel him to concede to the disposition of the prosecution that it had established a prima-facie case against Metuh.
Justice Abang had posed the question Ikpeazu referred to, to Metuh (first defendant in the matter before the Federal High Court) for clarification on some points regarding Metuh’s reaction to the discovery of N400 million in the account belonging to his company, Destra Investment, in November 2014.
Justice Abang held that if Metuh fails to make necessary clarifications on the questions, he (Metuh) would otherwise prove he was aware of the source of the funds, thereby proving right the allegations against him.
The questions by the Justice included: “Did the first defendant ask to enquire the source of the funds in November 2014, after he discovered N400 million in the account of the second defendant? If he did not, why didn’t he? And if he did, what was the response he got?
“Did he report to the police that a huge sum of money had been found in his account? If he didn’t, why didn’t he? And if he did, what was the response of the police?
“Also, did the first defendant disburse the said funds to various people, including Chief Tony Anenih? If he did, why did he distribute the funds without making certain its source?”
In its ruling, the court however held that the above questions were rhetorical not meant to shift the burden of proof to the appellant in breach of his right to fair hearing.
“Where a no case submission is adduced, the appellant should explain exactly what happened.
“There is need for the appellant to offer an explanation on the prima fascie case established against him,” Justice Aboki said.
The appeal was therefore dismissed for lacking in merit.
But addressing journalists, after the judgment, Ikpeazu, while stating that his client had since opened his defence at the federal high court, disclosed that there are issues in the judgment his team is not comfortable with, adding that after due consultation with his client, who will instruct them on the next line of action, they may likely proceed to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Justice Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the application filed by Metuh, seeking permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.The Justice in his ruling yesterday, said the application seeking the release of Metuh’s international passport should not have come to his court in the first place.
While stressing that the decision was made with regards to the nature of Metuh’s trial, Abang added that the present condition of the defendant should not be a reason for the law to be compromised.
He said: “Proceedings in a court of law is not based on sentiments.
“The court cannot set aside its decision. I have no jurisdiction to do so.”
Abang however noted that Metuh has the right to appeal against the judgment, adding that until when the higher court decides on that, he would not have to consider the merits of the first application.
“In case I am overruled in Court of Appeal, with respect to prayer two, I will still make findings with regard to prayer 1,” he said.
Metuh had on May 23 informed the court of an application he made dated May 16, seeking permission to allow him travel to the United Kingdom for five weeks to attend to his failing health.
His counsel, Ikpeazu, who made the application on his behalf, also asked the court to permit the release of Metuh’s passport so that if the first application is granted, he (Metuh) would be able to travel for the proposed treatment of his ailing spinal cord.