By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja has granted leave to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to try the embattled former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, in absentia.
The court said it was satisfied that Metuh has jumped bail, saying there was no reasonable explanation to justify his absence for continuation of trial.
Justice Abang agreed with EFCC that Metuh had on Monday, engaged in gross misconduct when he disobediently attempted to enter the dock after the court had permitted him to remain where he was initially seated.
He noted that Metuh subsequently fell down on his own and disrupted proceedings by whispering loundly in the open court and groaning intermittently, “giving the impression that he was in serious pain”.
“The 1st defendant has no right to hold this court to ransom by doing things or taking steps deliberately intended to scuttle his trial.
“The 1st defendant has repeatedly made the court of law look like an accident scene. This conduct should not be allowed in the temple of justice”, Justice Abang held.
He said Metuh had since April 2016 when EFCC closed its case, repeatedly “erected several road blocks aimed at frustrating this trial”.
“In a bid to dismantle those road blocks, the court was accused of being biased and conducting unfair trial. However, this court will stand its ground and always do what is right”, Justice Abang added.
He said Metuh “ignored a humane disposition of the court” by insisting on entering the dock, saying his action amounted to gross misconduct and wilful disobedience to the authority of the court.
While invoking the provision of section 266 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Justice Abang said: “I do not think that further hearing of this case in the absence of 1st defendant will in any way affect his right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 Constitution”.
Before adjourning the case till Thursday for continuation of the trial in Metuh’s absence, Justice Abang summoned the General Manager of Channels TV and the anchor of Sunrise Today, Maukpe Ogun Yusuf, to appear before him on Friday to show cause why an order should not be made to compel them to produce an unedited video recording of May 22 edition of the program where prejudicial comments were made concerning the court proceeding.
Metuh is answering to a seven-count charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Ltd.
EFCC alleged that he received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, prior to the 2015 presidential election, without executing any contract.
More details later.