20 March 2019

Nigeria: Corruption Trial - Why My Lawyers Withdrew - Olisa Metuh

A former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, has stated his role in the resignation of two of his lead counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu and Emeka Etiaba.

In a statement explaining the withdrawal of the lawyers, Mr Metuh said he took the decision "to free them from the harrowing challenges they have been facing on account of the conduct of his case."

Mr Metuh, who is facing trial for alleged fraud, was represented by the two senior advocates since the beginning of the matter in 2016.

In a recent letter signed by both lawyers, they alleged intimidation from unidentified persons and added that they were facing a conflicting situation of meeting the demands of their other matters and satisfying the expectations of Mr Metuh who had insisted on having them present in his day-to-day trial.

In a reaction to the reports regarding the lawyers' withdrawal, Mr Metuh cited the alleged intimidation and the lawyers' involvement in election matters as reason for their resignation.

Mr Metuh who alleged that the lawyers have been faced with numerous threats in the course of the matter, added that he holds Messrs Ikpeazu and Etiaba in high esteem and was still utilising their legal services in other matters.

"Consequent upon numerous enquiries and various reports on the change of counsel in my case with the Federal Government, I have decided to set the record straight.

"The fact is that in the past three years, my counsel have been under immense intimidation and harassment on account of the conduct of this case. Despite their travails, they have held steadfast on my innocence and have gone to considerable personal costs in the conduct of the case.

"However, in the last few weeks, I have become aware that their life and personal freedom have been under severe threats which development informed their application to the court to withdraw from the case.

"I therefore came to the conclusion that instead of allowing the issue of their withdrawal to be at the discretion of the court, it was better in the circumstance, to free them from the harrowing challenges they have been facing on account of the conduct of this case."

Mr Metuh confirmed the claim by the lawyers that their other election matters constituted a cause of conflict between them and the former spokesperson.

"Secondly because of the day-day trial ordered by the court, it became difficult for them to give my case the time and full energy the matter demanded given their diaries and involvement in other cases, (election cases inclusive)

"It is pertinent to state that the said counsel are however still representing me in other matters in other courts, as my estimation, respect and value for them have increased now, more than ever before.

"More importantly, there has been a smooth transition as I have been mindful of any undue delay in the change of counsel, even with the difficulty and near impossibility of getting a Senior Counsel in Nigeria, who will endure the threats and pressures from official quarters as well as abandon election petitions in this season.

"My fervent prayer remains that at the end of the day, justice will not only be done, but would also be seen to be have been done in this matter," Mr Metuh said.

Also in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Etiaba said their decision to withdraw should not be viewed as an abandonment of Mr Metuh. He reiterated the claims made in their letter to the court.

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