•Ex-PDP’s spokesman heads for A’Court
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Barely few minutes after he was sentenced to a total of 39 years prison terms, a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olise Metuh, has said he will seek redress at the Court of Appeal to challenge his sentencing, which will run concurrently.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday sentenced Metuh to a total of 39 years imprisonment for money laundering, but he will spend only seven years in a correctional facility since his sentencing is to run concurrently.
With his conviction, Metuh became the first official of the former ruling party to be convicted of what is widely believed to be campaign finance related offences.
In the trial that began four years ago, Metuh and his company, Dextra Investment Limited, were arraigned on a seven-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N400 million allegedly received from the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
They were also accused of laundering $2 million and conversion of public funds into private usage.
But the former PDP spokesman denied the allegations, saying the funds were for a national assignment that the then President Goodluck Jonathan asked him to execute.
However, delivering judgment in the case, Justice Abang held that the prosecution was able to establish the ingredients of guilt in all the seven-count criminal charge against Metuh and his company.
Justice Abang handed down the minimum years as prescribed by Section 15 of the Money Laundering Act.
Reacting to the judgment, Metuh’s lawyer, Mr. Abel Oziokor, who expressed disappointment over the outcome of the trial, told journalists that they were already on their way to the appellate court.
Oziokor while noting that the case is a novel one, described it as a good example of a bad case.
He said, “We have our appeal in our hands. We still have confidence in the law courts and we are heading upstairs to the three wise men to know whether he is right or wrong”.
Justice Abang in the judgment stated that notwithstanding the pleadings of leniency by counsel to the defendants, Metuh merited the verdict.
The judge who berated Metuh for destroying his statement made to the EFCC, said the accused had opportunity to have remedied the situation before it got out of hand but bungled it.
“He had opportunity to resolve the issue with the complainant when he was confronted with the statement of account showing that he transferred N50 million to an account owned by his wife.
“He ought to have been sober because of the involvement of his immediate family,” the court held.
Justice Abang, however, warned other public officers not to dissipate public funds on private matters, adding that, “when you are faced with the facts of the case, particularly in situation like this you should not be assertive or stubborn.”
On count one of the charge, the judge sentenced Metuh to seven years imprisonment; count two, seven years; count three, five years; count four, seven years, count five, three years with a fine of N25 million; count six, three years with a fine of N25 million and count seven, seven years imprisonment.
The sentences, which are to run concurrently according to the judge, came into effect from yesterday when the judgment was delivered.
The court also ordered the winding up of Dextra Investment Limited and also directed that the balance in the firm’s bank accounts be forfeited to the federal government.
Justice Abang in addition imposed a fine of N375 million on Metuh.
Justice Abang held that Metuh and his company were guilty of unlawfully possession of N400 million from the account of the ONSA domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The court said evidence before it proved that the funds formed part of the unlawful activities of the then NSA, adding that the claim by Metuh that the funds were payment for a national assignment he carried out for Jonathan was untenable.
According to the judgment, Metuh’s failure to call Jonathan to give evidence was fatal to his case.
Justice Abang held that he was certain that Jonathan would not have given a verbal approval for payment of the fund for any national assignment.
The judge held that Metuh ought to have known or probably knew that the funds were part of the unlawful activities of the former NSA, whom he (Metuh) said had no contract with in the first place and yet went ahead to dissipate the funds.
While stating that the first defendant was not telling the court the truth, Justice Abang said if the defendants knew of the inflow of N400 million from the ONSA where he had earlier claimed in his statement that he never had any contract with, he (Metuh) ought to have questioned the source of the money and not have gone ahead to spend it.
The court held that the only person who could have corroborated Metuh’s claim that the money was authorised was the then president, whom the defendants planned to call but later abandoned.
The court noted that even when it was subpoenaed to call Dasuki who was a principal officer to Jonathan, relevant questions were not put before Dasuki to affirm or deny that Jonathan directed that N400 million be paid to Metuh.
“Having established that the money came from ONSA and there was no contractual evidence and ONSA not being a charitable organisation, the first defendant took no steps whatsoever to know why the N400 million was paid to the account of the second defendant.
“I agree with the prosecution that it was unlawful that the former National Security Adviser to have misappropriated public funds in favour of the first and second defendants.
“Prosecution have proved the ingredients as regards count one”, Justice Abang held, adding that the defendant turned a blind eye to the actual source of the inflow without a contract for which N400 million was paid.
“I found the first defendant guilty in respect of count one and is accordingly convicted.
“The second defendant is also guilty in respect of count one and accordingly convicted”, Abang held.
In counts two and three, Justice Abang held that evidence tendered by the prosecution proved that Metuh disbursed the funds received from Dasuki for the political activities of the PDP as well as for his personal use.
“Metuh has not explained how N50 million was transferred to a joint account of his wife and himself,” the court held.
The judge added that all documentary evidence presented to the court failed to show any security services for which the N400 million was paid to the defendants, but rather flow of funds into PDP’s campaign activities as well as Metuh’s personal use.
In count four, the court also found the defendants guilty on the grounds that they failed to place material before the court to show that Jonathan engaged the first defendant on a national assignment for national security.
The court also found the defendants guilty on counts five and six which bordered on making cash deposits beyond the maximum threshold, which is N5 million for individual and N10 million for an organisation.