The spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, on Thursday, March 16, asked the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign his case to another judge for fear of being denied justice by the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang.
Metuh is standing trial on a 7-count charge bordering on illegal diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He allegedly received the sum of N400 million (four hundred million naira) from the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) who is being tried for laundering $2.1 billion.
His decision to petition the judge is not unconnected with the ruling of March 9, 2016, which quashed the “no-case” submission made by Metuh’s counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, wherein he argued that, the prosecution did not establish the essential elements of the offences charged, as to warrant him enter a defence.
At the resumed hearing today, the lead counsel to the defence, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, through one of the counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, sent in a letter seeking for an adjournment to enable him go for medicals.
Adedipe, SAN, further undertook that, in the event the lead counsel (Ikpeazu) failed to appear on the adjourned date, he would examine the witness.
Counsel to EFCC, Sylvester Tahir, in reponse, opposed the application saying that, “the defendant has legion of lawyers representing him to the extent that, if one is not available there should be someone to examine our witness”.
Justice Abang, after listening to the submissions of the counsels, asked if they were aware that, one of the defence counsels, Emeka Etiaba, SAN, wrote a petition to the Chief Justice, asking for the transfer of the case on the grounds that he had made interlocutions in favour of the prosecution.
While Tahir denied knowledge of it, Adedipe, emphatically told the court that, “any letter written by any member of the defence team is a unanimous decision of the defence.”
In his ruling, Justice Abang expressed surprise that the defence did not serve the prosecution with a copy of the petition; a situation he described as “unethical”.
According to the judge, service on the prosecution is necessary to enable him respond.
Relying on a circular from the National Judicial Council, Justice Abang, while taking a decision on Metuh’s petition stated that, he would continue to preside over the case until the Chief Justice takes a decision on the matter.
He noted that, the defence had sought several adjournments in the process of this trial and subsequently adjourned the matter to March 23, 2016 for the defence to open their case.
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