By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, fixed June 22 for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to restart the trial of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh.
Metuh, who is facing money laundering charge, was previously convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment following a seven-count charge the anti-graft agency preferred against him and his firm, Destra Investment Limited.
However, the Court of Appeal, in a judgement it delivered on December 16, 2020, nullified his conviction.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, held that the verdict of trial Justice Okon Abang, which found both Metuh and his firm guilty, was tainted with bias.
The appellate court held that the trial Judge made disparaging remarks in the judgement that betrayed his premeditated mindset against the Defendants, whom he accused of writing various petitions against him.
In its lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Stephen Adah, the appellate court said it was convinced that Metuh and his firm were denied fair hearing by the trial court.
Consequently, the appellate court voided the trial court’s judgement and ordered that the case-file against the defendants be remitted back to the Chief Judge of the High Court to be reassigned to another judge for a re-trial.
In line with the order of the Court of Appeal, Metuh’s case-file was re-assigned to Justice Emeka Nwite for the defendants to take a fresh plea.
It will be recalled that Metuh was initially arraigned on January 15, 2016, and subsequently re-arraigned on February 18, same year, on an amended seven-count charge.
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 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 testified before the court, equally alleged that Metuh was involved in an illicit transaction that involved the exchange of $2million.
In the judgement he delivered on February 25, 2020, Justice Abang said he was satisfied that EFCC successfully proved all the allegations.
In his sentence, Justice Abang handed Metuh seven years on counts 1, 2, 4 and 7 of the charge, five years on count 3 and three years on count 5 and 6.
He also ordered Metuh to pay a total sum of N375million to the coffers of the Federal Government, while the firm was ordered to pay N25m with respect to both counts 5 and 6 of the charge.
Justice Abang directed that the firm should be wound up with all funds standing to its credit forfeited to the government.
He held that the sentence should run concurrently starting from the day of the judgement, a decision that was eventually voided by the Court of Appeal.
The EFCC had since gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the Court of Appeal judgement that ordered a retrial of the Defendants.