Court Admits in Evidence Payments Made by Metuh for Publicity


Alex Enumah in Abuja

As the trial of former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, continued wednesday, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, trying Metuh on alleged money laundering offences has admitted in evidence documents showing payments for advertorials in various media outlets made on the instruction of Metuh.

The document which comprises breakdown of payment of the sum of N31 million to different media outfits for advertorials in the name of PDP were tendered by the fifth defence witness, Richard Ihediwa.

Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, in a bench ruling wednesday, held that since the documents were relevant to the case, they are admissible.

Abang held that even though no submission was made as to how the witness came across the documents, the fact that it contained relevant evidence makes it admissible.

He also ruled that being a legal document of account, it did not matter whether the witness was a maker or not, especially as he has knowledge of the inflow of account.

The judge quoting from the evidence-in-chief of the witness recalled the witness said his responsibility was to handle and place advertorial including the payments for such advertorials.
He went further to recall how the witness claimed N31.5million was paid into his account by the 1st defendants which he in turn disbursed to various media outlets covering them.

Stating that the issue was not whether the witness had custody of the document or not but of relevance, Abang said he was satisfied that the witness had personal knowledge of the documents from his evidence-in-chief and consequently admitted the document.

At the last adjournment, following a blow-by-blow account by the DW5 of how money was disbursed on media and publicity, counsel to the 1st defendant, Emeka Etiaba had sought to tender documents confirming payments to some media houses for advertorials in respect of media campaign for former president Goodluck Jonathan and in PDP towards the 2015 presidential election.

But counsel to the prosecutor, Sylvanus Tahir, opposed the admissibility of the document as exhibit on the grounds that it was a mere computer generated document, adding that no foundation was laid before the document was tendered.

He had also argued that since the witness was not a custodian or maker of the document he cannot tender them.

Tahir also argued that since the witness was not the one who certified the document it should not be admitted.

However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, Etiaba submitted that the prosecution did not seem to apply the word ‘custodian’ correctly.

He said: “This is a witness who seeks to tender his own evidence. We submit that this document comes from proper custody, but assuming that it did not, it was still not enough reason to reject it.”

On the issue of relevance, Etiaba argued that since the prosecution did not raise the issue of relevance of the document, the defence counsel took it that the document was relevant at the first instance and consequently, should be admitted on that ground.

He therefore urged the court to admit the evidence and to discountenance the objection of the prosecution.

Also admitted in evidence as exhibits D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9 and D10 were standing orders and transfer receipts of some of the payments made to some media outfits.
Justice Abang, however adjourned the hearing of the matter till November 24 and 30.
He also ordered the defendant, in line with the rules of the court, to present the list of other witnesses it planned to call at the next adjourned date.