Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on Thursday, February 23, 2017 frowned at what it called 'unnecessary delay tactics' employed by counsel to the embattled former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh to frustrate his trial.
Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited, are being prosecuted on a 7-count of fraud to the tune of N400million which he allegedly received from the Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014 without justification.
The money was said to have been released to Metuh and his firm by the immediate past NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), from about $2.1bn allegedly earmarked by the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the North-East.
It would be recalled that Onyeachi Ikpeazu, SAN, counsel for Metuh had on May 23, 2016 through a previous application dated May 16, 2016 made a similar application seeking the permission of the court to allow his client "travel to the United Kingdom for five weeks to attend to his failing health".
Justice Abang, however dismissed that application.
After several adjournments mostly at the instance of the defence, Metuh again is seeking the release of his International passport to enable him go for medical treatment in the United Kingdom.
When the case came up on February 21, 2017, Ikpeazu in moving the application, argued that "this application is distinct" from the earlier one, noting that, "this is a prayer for variation in bail condition", and "bordered on the life and health of the defendant".
He further asked the court to order the DSS to release the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) to enable him testify in the case as his name was mentioned in almost all the charges against his client.
In response, counsel to EFCC, Silvanus Tahir, also advanced arguments contained in his 15 paragraph counter affidavit vehemently opposing the request for Metuh's international passport to be released to him. He, instead urged the court to "dismiss the application and sustain the tempo of the trial or order a most speedy trial".
Ruling on the application today, Justice Abang dismissed the applications, stating that the court cannot compel Dasuki to come and testify because this will amount further adjournments at the instance of the defendant.
He noted out that the defence had employed all sorts of delay tactics from the beginning of the case by continuously seeking frivolous adjournments just to frustrate the case. The judge added that the defence had exhausted its chances of adjournment. In the circumstance, Justice Abang ordered the defence to present his next witness.
Reacting to the ruling, Ikpeazu stated that Dasuki is their next witness, adding that his client is being denied fair hearing. He said that the issue of delay tactics did not since the defendant was certified ill.
“I would say that my Lord is biased and we have no confidence that you will give us justice. We urge your lordship to recuse yourself from this matter”, he submitted.
Apparently miffed by Ikpeazu’s reaction, Justice berated him for saying he had no confidence in the court, but Ikpeazu insisted that he only spoke with facts arising from his observation of the proceedings so far.
On his part, Tahir argued that the court had given its ruling. It is only proper for the dissatisfied party to appeal the ruling, rather than show disrespect to the court for ruling on a matter.
“My Lord, the defence had earlier filed a list of their witnesses and there are about 3 identified witnesses who have not yet testified. There is no stipulation in law that witnesses are to be presented in a particular order.
“The insistence that in the absence of Dasuki, they cannot go on with trial, does not find accommodation in the law. We therefore urge the court to order the defence to proceed with other witnesses”, Tahir submitted.
Ikpeazu thereafter prayed the court to adjourn the matter to allow him more time to get Dasuki from the DSS to testify in the trial.
Justice Abang, while adjourning the matter to March 20 -24, 2017, warned against frivolous request for adjournment and ordered counsel to the 2nd defendant to open his defence within the given dates.
Media & Publicity
February 23, 2017