By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail it granted to former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh.
The anti-graft agency, in an application that was made by its lead counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, urged the court to remand Metuh in prison custody pending the determination of the criminal charge against him.
The application followed the absence of the embattled former PDP spokesman in court for two consecutive dates that his case was fixed for hearing.
Metuh is answering to a seven-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Limited.
EFCC is prosecuting him over allegation that he had before the 2015 Presidential election, received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any contract.
The agency alleged that the fund was electronically wired from an account that ONSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to Metuh, via account no. 0040437573, which his firm operated with Diamond Bank Plc.
It told the court that the fund which was released to Metuh and his firm by detained former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, was part of about $2.1billion earmarked for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the North East.
More so, the prosecution which had earlier closed its case after it called eight witnesses that testfied before the court, equally alleged that Metuh was involved in an illicit transaction that involved the exchange of $2million.
Metuh had at the resumed proceeding on the matter on Monday, failed to appear in court, though he filed a letter pleading for adjournment on ground of ill-health.
His lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, further informed the court that he was hosptalised at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital at Nnewi in Anambra State.
To support the claim, Metuh forwarded to the court, a letter dated January 21, 2018, which was signed on behalf of the hospital by one Dr. O. C. Ekwegwu, indicating that he was admitted for medical treatment.
Metuh was said to have been rushed to the hospital last Saturday after his health deteriorated while on a visit to his home town.
Based on the letter, Justice Okon Abang deferred the trial after EFCC said it grudgingly conceded to the adjournment request in the interest of justice.
Meantime, when the case resumed on Tuesday, Metuh was also not in court, a development that led EFCC to apply that he should be made to attend his trial from Kuje prison.
It will be recalled that the court had on January 19, 2016, granted Metuh bail after he had spent five days in prison custody.
The embattled PDP chieftain who was arrested on January 5, 2016, was docked before the court after he had also spent 14 days in EFCC custody.
Justice Abang granted him bail to the tune of N400m, with his international passport seized by the court.
While applying for revocation of the bail, EFCC, faulted the letter from the hospital on the premise that it was not supported with a verifying affidavit, adding that it did not make any reference to the case pending before the court.
The prosecution equally rejected plea by Metuh’s lawyer for the court to conduct independent invetigation with a view to ascertaining whether or not Metuh was hospitalied.
According to EFCC lawyer, “The court should decline the invitation to order investigation into the veracity of the letter. There is no basis for that.
“Having regard to the absence of the first defendant from court yesterday and today for inexplicable reasons and also having regard to the fact that he is enjoying the bail of this court and has taken steps to undermine and jeopardise the full objectives and purpose of bail in the administration of criminal justice, the prosecution is constrained to apply for the revocation of the bail of the first defendant pursuant to sections 173(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and section 169 of the same Act.
“It follows without mention that we are vehemently opposed to application for adjournment. And we pray this honourable court to revoke the bail granted to the first defendant and commit him to prison until the conclusion of his trial. Once the bail is revoked, he will be attending his trial from the prisons.”
Metuh’s lawyer however urged the court to refuse EFCC’s application and vacate the days already fixed within the week for continuation of the trial.
“My learned friend has not placed any material before the court on why the bail granted by my lord after an extensive application should simply just be revoked.
“The essential facts to support such revocation must deal with the facts that the defendant is a flight risk, he is interfering with witnesses of the prosecution or interfering with due administration of justice”, Ikpeazu argued.
Similarly, counsel to Metuh’s firm, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, also urged the court to place value on the medical report and adjourn the trial till a later date.
Earlier, Metuh’s lawyer notified the court about his client’s decision to call 10 more witnesses in defence of the charge against him.
Justice Abang subsequently adjourned further proceeding in the matter till Wednesday.