….I fear no evil, Judge fires back
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA-The embattled National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, has asked Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to hands-off his trial.
Metuh who is answering to a seven-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him, urged the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to transfer his case-file to another Judge.
EFCC had in the charge that was signed by it Deputy Director of Litigation & Prosecution, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, alleged that Metuh received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, prior to the 2015 presidential election.
It alleged that the fund was part of about $2.1billion that was earmarked for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against insurgency in the country.
The prosecuting agency told the court that the N400m was on the instruction of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, electronically wired from an account ONSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to Metuh, via account no. 0040437573, which his firm, Destra Investment Limited, operated with Diamond Bank Plc.
The firm was also joined as the 2nd defendant in the matter.
Justice Abang had in a ruling he delivered on March 9, dismissed a no-case-submission Metuh filed through his consortium of lawyers led by four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, saying the EFCC had through evidence that was laid by eight witnesses, established that he has a criminal case to answer.
The court therefore adjourned the matter for the accused person to open his defence to the charge against him.
Meanwhile, at the resumed sitting on Thursday, Justice Abang, drew attention of the parties to the petition Metuh lodged against him before the CJ.
The petition with Ref No. EES/01/11/03/16, dated March 11, 2016, was signed by one of the lawyers in Metuh\’s team, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN.
However, Justice Abang who disclosed that a copy of the petition was forwarded to him by the CJ on March 16, at about 4pm, said he would not hands-off the case.
He said: \’I have a circular that was issued by my employer, the National Judicial Council, NJC, that whenever there is a petition in any matter seeking for transfer of a case pending before the judge, that such judge handling the case should continue to preside until a decision is taken on the petition.
\’On account of that circular, I shall continue to preside until the CJ takes a decision on Etiaba\’s petition. Let it be known that whatever decision I take on this matter is in-line with my conscience and the law. I fear no evil and I cannot be intimidated\’, Justice Abang stated.
He further berated Metuh\’s lawyer for not serving a copy of the petition on the prosecuting counsel, an action he said was in flagrant disobedience to the provision of Order 30 Rule 5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of legal practitioners, 2007.
‘The conduct of Etiaba is unethical. As a SAN, I expected that he should be aware of the law. The prosecution which represents the Federal Republic of Nigeria ought to have been availed a copy of the petition\’, the Judge noted.
Justice Abang said Metuh sought his disqualification from the case on three grounds- that all the rulings he previously delivered were in favour of the prosecution, that he refused to release the record of proceedings to him, as well as on the premise that they were classmates at the law school.
‘I cannot be blackmailed. Even if the accused was my classmate, that does not change the fact of the case and the law\’, Justice Abang fumed, stressing that the said record of proceeding was released to Metuh two days ago.