ABUJA – The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to try the embattled former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, in absentia.
…..grants EFCC’s request to try him in absentia
…..summons Channels TV General Manager, presenter
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The court said it was satisfied that Metuh who is answering to a seven-count money laundering charge, jumped bail, saying there was no reasonable explanation to justify his absence for continuation of his trial.
Trial Justice Okon Abang made the order on a day he accused the ex-PDP spokesman of making his court to look like an accident scene.
He upheld EFCC’s argument that Metuh had at his resumed trial 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.
The Judge stressed that Metuh fell down on his own and disrupted the court’s proceedings by whimpering loundly and groaning intermittently, “giving the impression that he was in serious pain”.
He said it was not correct that Metuh collapsed, “the defendant did not collapse, he fell down on his own”.
According to Justice Abang, Metuh “ignored a humane disposition of the court” by insisting on entering the dock, an action he said amounted to gross misconduct and wilful disobedience to a lawful directive from the the court.
He said Metuh had on the day he fell down, entered the courtroom with a walking stick “to give impression that he cannot walk on his own”.
Giving his own account of what transpired, Justice Abang said: “Because of how I saw him in the courtroom, I had sympathy for him and directed the registrar to tell him to remain where he was. The directive of the court was made to the hearing of the public. I also noticed people around the defendant beckon on him, which he dismissed by wave of hand.
“The defendant ignored the directive of the court and made his way to the dock and I noticed that he fell down”.
The Judge who wondered why none of the people that came to court with Metuh, made any attempt to raise him up from the floor, said he neither summoned nor gave one Dr. Adaora Ikeozor, a Doctor in the Medical Department of the court, the permission to assess the condition of the defendant.
He said the doctor who was not in court when Metuh fell down, gave “unsolicited opinion” that led to adjournment of the case till the next day.
“It is not clear who directed the doctor to be in court at that time. Certainly Dr. Adaora was in court on her own frolic”, the Judge insisted.
He said Metuh had on several occasions, employed different delay tactics to frustrate his trial.
“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 that temple of justice.”, Justice Abang held.
He said Metuh had since EFCC closed its case in April 2016, constantly “erected several road blocks aimed at frustrating this trial.
“In a bid to dismantle the road block, the court was accused of being biased and conducting unfair trial. However, this court will stand its ground and always do what is right.
“So much noise has been made about this trial. This is not the only criminal case being handled by this court. Currently, there are other high-profile criminal cases pending before this court, nothing is heard of these cases and progress being made on them.
“Why is it that so much noise is made on this matter? I think it will serve overall interest of justice if further proceeding is conducted in the absence of the 1st defendant”, Justice Abang added.
He said no medical report was placed before him to prove the claim that Metuh was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit at the National Hospital, Abuja.
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”.
The court equally observed that Metuh failed to appeal three rulings that rejected his plea to be allowed to travel abroad for treatment.
It said the recent appeal Metuh filed was invalid as he failed to secure leave of the trial court to do so.
Meantime, before adjourning the case till Thursday to continue 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.
The court said the duo would 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 it was alleged that prejudicial comments were made about Metuh’s trial.
Metuh is facing trial 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.
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.