..as court stays execution of order for trial of 3 Channels TV presenters
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, alleged attempt to scuttle the ongoing trial of former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh.
The agency made the allegation on a day it persuaded the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to reject an application that sought the postponement of further hearing on the criminal proceeding it initiated against Metuh, till November 29.
The request was contained in an affidavit of fact that was filed before the trial court by counsel to the 2nd defendant in the case, Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, who is representing Metuh’s firm, Destra Investment Ltd.
Metuh is answering to a seven-count charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm, following allegation that he received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, prior to the 2015 presidential election, without executing any contract.
The anti-graft 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.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, trial Justice Okon Abang notified parties that the court received an affidavit dated October 18, asking for the matter to be shifted till November to enable the counsel representing Metuh’s firm, Onwugbufor, SAN, to return from London where he is currently receiving medical attention.
While opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, noted that the case was adjourned since July 6.
He argued that nothing before the court proved that Onwugbufor was indeed outside the country as he claimed.
Tahir equally contended that Onwugbufor ought to have tutored a junior lawyer in his chambers to hold brief for him pending his return.
“There is nothing before this court to show that the learned senior counsel had an emergency resulting to his evacuation to the UK in an air ambulance.
“Here the court is made to believe that in the absence of Onwugbufor, the case cannot make progress. That is very unfortunate.
“There is no evidence to show that he is indeed out of the country or attending medical treatment in London. There is no medical report or boarding pass attached as exhibit.
“We submit that this application was not made in good faith, but borne out of desire to cause maximum delay in this case”, Tahir added.
On his part, Metuh’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, told the court that Onwugbufor was in possession of vital documents his client wanted to use for continuation of his defense.
In a bench ruling, Justice Abang declined the adjournment plea, even as he ordered Metuh to continue the defence of the charge against him on Tuesday.
Meantime, the court, in a separate ruling, granted an order for the stay of execution of an order it made on July 3, directing the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to arraign three Channels TV Presenters, for anchoring a program where prejudicial comments were made with respect to Metuh’s trial.
Justice Abang had maintained that the conduct of the three Presenters- Chamberlain Usoh, Gimba Umar and Anneota Egbe- in asking questions on a case pending before his court, was contemptuous.
He directed that the trio should be docked before any court of same coordinate jurisdiction as the Federal High Court, alongside the former Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Mr. Ben-Chuks Nwosu, who is a member of the legal team of the embattled former PDP spokesman.
Justice Abang made the order after a video clip of Channels TV program, Sunrise Daily, of May 22, where Mr. Nwosu appeared as a guest, was viewed in the open court.
However, following an application that Channels TV filed through its lawyer, Mr. G. T. Ogunlewe, Justice Abang stayed execution of his order, pending the outcome of an appeal the media outfit lodged against his ruling.