By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Embattled former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, on Tuesday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that out of N400million that was released to him before the 2015 presidential election, he did not spend a dime to sponsor any activity of the party.
Metuh, who continued his testimony before trial Justice Okon Abang, insisted that he only used the fund to execute a “national assignment” that was given to him by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He maintained that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, lied when it alleged that the fund was used to sponsor political activities of the PDP, prior to the presidential election.
Metuh is answering to a seven-count money laundering charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm, Destra Investment Ltd.
He was alleged to have received the sum of N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, before the 2015 presidential election, without executing any contract.
EFCC 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 testified before the court, equally alleged that Metuh was involved in an illicit transaction that involved the exchange of $2million.
However, the former PDP spokesman who earlier told the court that he secured approval for the fund to be released to him, after he exposed some of the challenges that faced Jonathan’s re-election bid, on Tuesday, tendered in evidence, document that depicted how the fund was expended.
The document detailing expenditure subheads of the N400m was admitted and marked as an exhibit by Justice Abang.
He sad the record of account and receipts of payments, clearly showed that the entire fund was used for the “national assignment” as directed by President Jonathan.
The court also admitted in evidence, media publications, wherein, in response to Metuh’s arrest and arraignment in 2016, the leadership of the PDP stated that the party did not in any way benefit from the fund, contrary to the allegation that it was used for political activities of the party.
The documents which were tendered by Metuh while he was led in evidence by his lawyer, Mr. Abel Ozioko, were marked as exhibits 21 and 22, respectively.
The defendant told the court that he personally handed the final account to ex-President Jonathan who he said commended him for his thoroughness in executing the assignment that involved “intensive nationwide advocacy to douse the tension created by the problems of insurgency and sectional agitations”.
According to him, the crisis the fund was used to tackle, had “posed threats to the conduct of the 2015 general election and the cooperate existence of our nation at that time.”
While exonerating the PDP, Metuh said: “My lord, no part of the N400m was spent on any activity of the PDP. The record of account and all the expenditure made, with receipts, bearing the names of those who received funds show that the entire N400m mlwas expended in execution of the Special National Assignment as directed by President Jonathan”.
Continuing, Metuh said: “Like I said in my testimonials earlier, President Jonathan had always insisted that the party must not benefit from government funding and that no government fund or asset must be used to promote or support the activities of the party. We as party officials strictly adhered to that.
“My Lord the PDP never benefitted from the N400m contrary to allegations and reports then in the public space. That was why the leadership of the PDP, through the then Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Abdullahi Jalo, made publications and emphatically stated the true position, that the PDP had nothing to do with the issue I was being charged with and will not provide sureties, since the party did not benefit from the money”.
More so, the defendant, told the court that he was hesitant to reveal names of some persons that helped him to execute the assignment so as to save them from public ridicule.
He said such individuals included respected professionals in various fields, including university lecturers, saying he did not want them to suffer the embarrassment of unnecessary negative media report and misrepresentations at the time he was arrested and arraigned.
Nevertheless, the defendant said he had tendered in evidence, a document that contained the full details of those that worked with him on the assignment.
“Exhibit D20 contains the names of professionals who worked with me and received funds in execution of the assignment.
“Because they accepted to participate in the assignment due to the confidence and trust they have in my integrity, I did not want them to suffer the humiliation of negative reports at the time.
“It was for this reason that I insisted that if there are any questions, repercussions, refunds or persecution to be suffered in that regard, it should be directed to me personally. That is the concept of leadership”, Metuh added.
Meantime, trial Justice Abang has adjourned further hearing on the matter to May 27, 28 and 30.
Metuh who commenced his defence since July 6, 2018, had earlier alleged before the court that his trial was a determined effort by President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to jail him at all cost.
He told the court that his trial was a calculated attempt by the APC to silence him from criticizing President Buhari’s dictatorial tendencies.
The ex-PDP national officer told the court that top APC members had prior to the time the EFCC arrested and subsequently charged him for fraud, tried to dissuade him from attacking President Buhari in the media.
Metuh told the court that some of the APC members, met him on several occasions in Dubai, Switzerland and Paris to discuss possible roles they could play to strengthen the PDP to wrestle power from President Buhari.
He said the top APC members, who he did not disclose their identities, equally complained of President Buhari’s governance style, saying they had lost confidence in his administration.
Metuh said after he refused to soft-pedal on his criticisms, he started receiving warnings to be cautious of possible attack and judicial witch-hunt.
He had earlier applied for court summons to be issued against both President Jonathan and the ex-NSA, Dasuki, describing them as essential witnesses in his case.
Though the summon was executed on Dasuki who appeared as a witness in the matter, Metuh, subsequently shelved his decision for a witness summon to be issued to ex-President Jonathan.