October 31, 2017

Jonathan, Dasuki ask Justice Abang to hands-off Metuh’s trial

Jonathan, Dasuki ask Justice Abang to hands-off Metuh’s trial

Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.): Former NSA and Goodluck Jonathan

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—-Former President Goodluck Jonathan and detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, on Tuesday, asked Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja to hands-off the ongoing trial of erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh.

Jonathan, through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, maintained that Justice Abang was bound to suspend further hearing on the case to allow the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to determine an appeal that was lodged before it by Dasuki.

Ozekhome anchored the request on Order 4 Rules 10 and 11 of the Court of Appeal Rules.

Dasuki had gone before the appellate court to challenge Justice Abang’s refusal to quash the subpoena that was issued to compel him to appear as a witness in Metuh’s trial.

Justice Abang had pursuant to an application by Metuh, summoned both Jonathan and Dasuki to appear and give evidence in the matter.

The former PDP spokesman who is answering to a seven-count corruption charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and his company, Destra Investment Ltd, had described Jonathan and Dasuki as his crucial and vital witnesses.

Failure of the duo to appear before the court on October 25 as they were directed, led to the trial Judge extending summons against them to yesterday.

Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding, neither Jonathan nor Dasuki was present in court.

Rather, Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, drew attention of the court to his client’s pending appeal, saying there was need for the trial Judge to hands-off for the appellate court.

Neverthless, absence of Dasuki in court infuriated the defence lawyers who urged Justice Abang to issue warrant of arrest against the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura.

In his submission, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, argued that action of the DSS by refusing to produce Dasuki as it was ordered to do, was in contempt and disrespect to the court.

He urged the court‎ to apply the consequences provided by the law under section 244 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and order Daura’s arrest.

Onwugbufor’s application for Daura to be arrested was immediately supported by both Metuh and Jonathan.

According to Jonathan’s lawyer, Chief Ozekhome, “My lord it is inconceivable that the DSS could not bring a person who has been in their custody for two years and who has not been proved to be violent. I think they are taking this court for a ride.

“This court is not a table tennis court, or basketball court or lawn tennis court.

“The applicable section, therefore, is section 243 and 244 of ACJA.”

However, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir told the court that he was informed by the DSS that Dasuki refused to be brought before the court.

Tahir said EFCC had in compliance to the order of the court, liaised with the Legal Adviser of the DSS on the need for the former NSA to be produced to give evidence in the trial.

“Up till this morning, exactly a quarter after 7am, the said Legal Adviser informed me that they were ready and willing to bring the intended witness to court, but that the subpoenaed witness said he has been advised by his legal team not to come to court.

“I told the Legal Adviser that in the circumstances the DSS found itself, they should personally come to court this morning to explain their situation to the honourable court. Our own role was to facilitate by liaising with the DSS and we have played our part.”

Later in the course of the proceeding, Tahir announced the appearance of one Mr. Echika Owete who he said was sent to represent the DSS.

He urged Justice Abang to ignore request for an arrest warrant to be issued against the DSS DG.

“It appears my lord that the DSS indeed made genuine effort to bring the witness. The Legal Adviser sent me another text message around 9:45am that Dasuki has finally agreed to appear before this court.

He said the message read: “Subject is still adamant and blatantly refused to appear in court except by force. However after much pleadings he has agreed to appear on subsequent date. So you may apply for a short date within the week”.

Meantime, Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, and counsel to all other parties in the matter, including Jonathan, asked the court to discountenace Tahir’s submission, saying claim that the ex-NSA refused to honour the summon amounted to hearsay evidence.

Raji maintained that the claim was “damning and incriminating hearsay”, even as he urged Justice Abang to expunge it from his record.

In his ruling, Justice Abang declined to issue arrest warrant against Daura.

“I cannot come to a conclusion that the Director General of the DSS flouted the order of the court of appeal to produce Dasuki.

“In line with my pronouncenent at the last adjourned date, the issue will be handled administratively”, the Judge held.

He subsequently adjourned the matter till Wednesday for the DSS to produce the ex-NSA in court.

Justice Abang said he would first hear and deliver ruling on the motions by Jonathan and Dasuki before further proceeding in the trial.

He said Dasuki’s motion would be decided first, adding that its outcome would determine the fate of Jonathan’s motion.

The court said it would however not entertain any frivolous application from any of the parties.

Earlier, Jonathan’s lawyer told the court that his client filed the motion for the subpoena issued against him to be set aside.

In the alternative, Jonathan asked the court to compel Metuh to provide the sum of N1billion to cover for travelling expenses of himself and security personnel that will travel with him from his hometown in Otuoke, Bayelsa State.

While EFCC told the court that it would not oppose the motion, Metuh’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, said his client would study Jonathan’s motion and decide on next line of action to take.

He said Metuh’s request to have Jonathan as his witness has been misconstrued by the public.

“My lord the 1st defendant feels pained by very dangerous insinuations that have been acsribed to his decision to call-in an evidence that will help him to go through this phase of his life”, Etiaba added.

Ozekhome had told the court that Jonathan got to know about the subpoena issued against him from reports in newspapers.

He said his client had yet to recieve a copy of the summon.

While confirming the development, the court registrar informed Justice Abang that the bailiff could not serve the process on Jonathan.

He said the bailiff further deposed an affidavit of none-service dated October 30 to the effect that he could not reach Jonathan.

In the affidavit, the bailiff told the court that when he got to the ex-President’s house in Abuja, a security personnel at the compound who refused to disclose his name, told him that Jonathan travelled abroad and would not be back in the country till next month.

Justice Abang had on October 25, handed the bailiff five days to serve the subpoena on Jonathan to enable him to appear as a witness in Metuh’s trial.

EFCC had in the charge before the court, alleged that the former PDP spokesman had before the 2015 presidential election, received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any contract.

It said the fund which was released to Metuh and his firm by the erstwhile NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd,‎ ‎was part of about $2.1billion earmarked for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the North East.

He was equally accused of money laundering. EFCC alleged that Metuh engaged in an illicit transaction that involved $2m.