THE trial of the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh before the Federal High Court in Abuja was stalled yesterday as the defendant was said to have been admitted at the National Hospital. Metuh is answering to a seven-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, entered against him and his company, Destra Investment Limited.
The defendants were alleged to have prior to the 2015 general elections, received N400million from Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any verifiable contract.
Metuh was absent at the resumed sitting on the matter yesterday, even as his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, informed the court that he was on a bed rest at the National Hospital in Abuja. Ikpeazu adduced a medical report signed by a neurosurgeon consultant at the hospital, Dr. O.O Olaleye, a document that confirmed that Metuh was indeed on admission in the hospital.
His lawyer therefore applied for an adjournment of the case, noting that the situation envisaged by section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, where a trial judge is permitted to proceed with hearing a criminal case in the absence of an accused person, had not arisen in Metuh’s case. While counsel to the 2nd defendant, Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, supported the adjournment request, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, equally told the court that he would not oppose.
Tahir however drew the attention of the court to section 266(a) and (b) of the ACJA which makes it mandatory for a defendant to be present in court whenever his trial comes up. After listening to all the parties, trial Justice Okon Abang adjourned the case till May 30.
The court however fixed today to rule on Metuh’s application for leave to travel to the United Kingdom for treatment.
While adjourning the case, Justice Abang noted that though Metuh had good reason to be absent from court, he said the medical report was unhelpful as it failed to indicate the period which the bed rest would last.
The judge said the omission of the period for the bed rest in the medical report had left doubt to whether the report was issued in bad faith.