…attends trial in wheelchair, seeks leave to travel to UK for treatment
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, who is facing corruption charges, on Wednesday, begged the Federal High Court in Abuja to allow him to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom, saying he has lost sensation in his lower limbs.
Metuh who was brought before the court in a wheelchair for continuation of his trial, said he was suffering from spinal cord related ailment.
He was wheeled into the courtroom to continue his defence to the seven-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and his firm, Destra Investment Limited.
EFCC alleged 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.
Meantime, at the resumed proceeding on Wednesday, Metuh through his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, applied to be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
Metuh’s lawyer told the court that his client’s health had badly deteriorated in the past two months, a situation he said would require urgent medical attention from his doctors in London.
He tendered as an exhibit, a letter from one Dr. Adrian T. H. Kasey, a Neurosurgeon at Wellington Hospital in London, which he said emphasized the need for Metuh to be treated urgently.
The former PDP spokesman predicated his application on section 33(5) and 6(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
However, trial Justice Abang requested both the prosecution and defence lawyers to address him on whether the court could grant Metuh’s request considering that he previously dismissed two similar applications on May 25, 2016 and on February, 2017.
Justice Abang who noted that Metuh had yet to appeal both rulings, noted that issues Metuh raised in his present application dated February 23, were the same thing he relied on in the two dismissed applications.
Responding to issue raised by the Judge, Etiaba, SAN, maintained that the court had the requisite jurisdiction to grant the application he said was necessitated by fresh facts and circumstances that were not involved in the two previously dismissed motions.
He said the court could undertake an independent assessment of fresh materials that were placed before it so as to determine whether or not it should accede to the request to save Metuh’s life.
Relying on a Supreme Court decided case-law in Nnadozie vs Mbagwu, reported in 2018 NWLR, part 1074, Etiaba urged the court to consider the fresh facts and deteriorating health of the defendant, and grant the application.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, asked the court to refuse Metuh’s application.
The EFCC lawyer maintained that the court had become funtus-officio in the matter having in two earlier rulings, dismissed the same request.
After he had listened to both sides, Justice Abang adjourned his ruling till Thursday.
The court earlier in the proceeding, refused an oral application Etiaba made pursuant to section 266(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, praying for Metuh who sat inside the wheelchair while on the dock, to be granted leave to be absent in court while the lawyers exchange arguments on his request to seek medical attention abroad.
Though he refused the application, Justice Abang said Metuh was at liberty to leave the courtroom on his own, “there will not be any issue out of it”, the Judge held.
It will be recalled that Metuh was on February 9, brought to court in an ambulance, after Justice Abang threatened to revoke his bail and commit him to prison if he failed to appear for his trial.
The threat followed Metuh’s absence in court on two successive dates, though his lawyers tendered reports indicating that he was hospitalized at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu where he was referred to by Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital Nnewi.