By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Thursday, threatened to order the arrest of former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, should he fail to appear in court on February 5 for continuation of his criminal trial.
Justice Abang said Metuh would be arrested and remanded in prison custody, pending the conclusion of the charge against him, in the event that he failed to attend proceeding on the next adjourned date.
The court said it was not persuaded by claim that Metuh was lying critically ill at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital at Nnewi in Anambra State.
Justice Abang discribed as meritorous, an application by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which prayed the court to revoke Metuh’s bail over his failure to appear for his trial on three consecutive dates.
Metuh had at the resumed proceeding on case, Monday, pleaded the court through his team of lawyers, to suspend his trial to enable him to receive proper medical attention.
Meanwhile, ruling on the application,yesterday, Justice Abang upheld EFCC’s position, saying the “purported medical report is a trash, a useless paper only dumped on the court that is meant for a trash bin.”
The court said the letter was strategically aimed at delaying the trial, maintaining that it was designed as a subtle way of staying further proceeding in the trial.
Justice Abang held that the letter from the hospital was fraudulently smuggled into his record by a person unknown to the court, with the intent to mislead the court.
He said: “The person who submitted that letter must be known to the court, in this instant case, he is unknown.
“The court of law cannot rely on a public document tendered by a none party in a suit; it has no charge number and violated the three ways by which a public document can be submitted before a court.”
Moreso, the court observed that the said letter was not accompanied by a verifiable affidavit.
Justice Abang said he was appalled that the medical report was full of medical terms he said did not make any meaning to the court.
He, therefore, rejected the purported medical report, saying he was of the view that Metuh failed to attend his trial without cogent reason.
Justice Abang stressed that though EFCC did not request for Metuh’s arrest, he said: “It is my view that fact of arrest of the 1st defendant is inherent in revocation of the bail.
“Arrest is a consequential order. If the 1st defendant’s bail is revoked, he will be arrested. The outcome of his response when he appears in court shall determine whether or not to put him in prison, the court held.”
“The fact that the prosecution did not hinge his application for revocation of bail on Section 169 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is not fatal”.
More so, the court said it was not inclined to try Metuh in absentia considering that section 266 of ACJA provided that a defendant in a criminal matter must be physically present to attend his trial.
“This court shall henceforth not accept any other medical report issued by any medical doctor in Nigeria until the trial is concluded” Justice Abang added.
Neverthless, the court said it considered passionate plea by the defence lawyers and decided to suspend execution of the bail revocation order.
“I hereby suspend my decision revoking the bail. It is expected that the defendant will turn to a new leaf, show compulsion and attend his trial on February 5 and 6.
“If he fails to appear in court on these dates fixed for continuation of his trial, his bail shall be revoked and he will be remanded in prison custody”, Justice Abang held.
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.
Besides, 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.
Owing to his absence in court for continuation of the trial, EFCC applied for his bail to be revoked, adding that he should be made to attend the court’s proceedings from prison.