……Metuh kicks, says ill-health preventing me from following my trial
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, gave reasons why he would not rule on request for the embattled former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, to be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, until April 20.
Justice Abang maintained that section 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, permitted him to deliver ruling on such interlocutory application within 90 days.
He said there was no special provision in the law mandating the court to decide Metuh’s request before the stipulated period, despite the affidavit of urgency that was attached to the application.
Though Justice Abang noted that ruling on any interlocutory application accompanied by an affidavit of urgency, ought to be delivered timeously, he said his court was constrained by the fact that he would be out of Abuja till the end Easter vacation.
“I do not owe any of the parties any obligation to explain my movement or involvement in other divisions of this court in the days ahead”, the Judge added, saying he had earlier fixed hearing and judgments in many cases pending at Asaba and Lagos State.
“It will not be convenient for this court to travel back to Abuja to deliver ruling on this application in the next four weeks.
“Therefore this case is adjourned till 19th and 20th of April for continuation of trial. However, subject to availability of judicial time, the court will deliver ruling at the conclusion of trial on April 20”, Justice Abang held.
Meanwhile, Metuh who attended the proceeding in a wheelchair, through his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision of the trial Judge.
Etiaba noted that Justice Abang had always in the past, delivered bench ruling on various applications in the matter, especially the ones against his client.
He said his client would go to the Court of Appeal to challenge the refusal of the judge to adjourn the trial in view of his ill-health.
Metuh had in the course of the trial, told the court that sedative influence of a medication that was administered on him, was preventing him from following the proceedings.
“My lord, yesterday, after the court session, I had a discussion with my client and I realised that even though he was physically present in court, he did not have the presence of mind to appreciate what went on in court.
“This is because he is on pain killers which cause him to be sleepy or sleep in court otherwise he is under severe pain.
“Section 266 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) provides that a defendant has to be present in court all though his trial, not only physically but must also be able to follow through the proceedings in court”, Etiaba argued.
Justice Abang however rejected the application, saying no material was placed before the court to enable it exercise its discretion in favour of the defendant.
The former PDP spokesman had on Wednesday, begged the court to allow him to seek medical attention in the UK, decrying that he has lost sensation in his lower limbs.
Metuh said he was suffering from spinal cord related ailment.
His lawyer told the court that Metuh’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, 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.
Metuh is currently defending 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.