23 May 2018

Nigeria: Court Decides On Continuation of Metuh's Trial Today

Abuja — Justice Okon Abang will today decide whether he would continue with its trial of former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, facing allegations of corruption and money laundering.

Metuh, alongside his company, Destra Investment Limited, are being prosecuted by the federal government for receiving the sum of N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser, a fund meant for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram.

Justice Abang will also today, decide whether or not to order Channels Television to make available to the court, a video recording of yesterday's edition of the Sunrise Daily programme of the station in which a counsel in the matter was alleged to have made prejudicial statement.

The court had yesterday adjourned to rule on the two motions argued by parties in the suit.

At the resumed trial yesterday, Metuh's counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had brought an application before the court asking the court not to proceed with the trial in the absence of his client, Metuh.

The former PDP spokesman collapsed on Monday as he was making his way to the dock when his case was called.

However, Metuh was not in court when his case was called. Etiaba told the court that Metuh was on admission at the Intensive Care Unit of the National Hospital, Abuja where he is currently being treated of the spinal chord injuries he is suffering from.

He said if the court holds that it cannot try Metuh in his absence, "it then follows that an adjournment will be granted until his client is fit to appear in court to face his trial.

Counsel to the second defendant, Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), aligned himself with the submission of Etiaba.

Responding, prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, in opposing the application said Metuh, on Monday violently disobeyed a lawful order of the court to sit down where he was seated for the proceedings to go on.

He said Metuh's refusal to sit down, which led to his collapse amounted to disobedience to the directive of the court and added that the medical personnel that directed that Metuh be rushed to the hospital was not on the instruction of the court.

Tahir further submitted that there was no medical report or any evidence, explaining the absence of the 1st defendant in court for his trial yesterday.

In his words: "What is playing out is a complete dis-regard and disobedience to authority of the court and the judiciary", and urged the court to continue with the trial in Metuh's absence, adding that, it will not amount to violation of the principle of fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution.

He said Metuh has no right to hold the state to ransom by refusing to come to court or doing things or taking steps to scuttle or frustrate a fair trial in the case.

Tahir also drew the court's attention to a programme on Channels Television in which a counsel in the team of lawyers to the former PDP spokesman featured.

He alleged that the counsel, Ben Chuks Nwosu, made comments that touched on the subject matter pending before the court, for which Metuh is standing trial.

Tahir then applied to the court orally for an order summoning the TV station to produce the video recording of the programme which was aired yesterday, where-in Nwosu allegedly made a prejudicial comment in the matter before the court.

Responding, Etiaba said the application for an order compelling Channels TV to produce video recording of the Sunrise Daily programme of the station, was based on hearsay evidence and that the court cannot take decision on a hearsay evidence.

The counsel said the prosecution said he was called on his way to the court around 8a.m. of yesterday that Nwosu was on the panel, discussing the matter that is pending before the court and that, he did not witness it personally.

After taken submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Abang adjourned till today to rule on the application by the prosecution to order Channels Television to produce the video recordings of the programme which featured Metuh's counsel and to also rule on whether to continue with the trial in the absence of Metuh as well as continuation of trial.

Nigeria

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