Judge, EFCC ‘conspire’ in latest judgement against Metuh

By Amako Nneji April 8, 2016 10:24

Judge, EFCC ‘conspire’ in latest judgement against Metuh

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has on Friday, April 8, ruled on an application filed by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisah Metuh on the change of a trial judge.

Justice Abang in delivering judgment rejected Metuh’s application for lacking in merit, maintaining that it was an abuse of court proceedings.

One of the counsels to Metuh, Mr. Emeka Etiaba had recently filed an application demanding that Justice Abang disqualifies himself from the case for being bias.

However, ruling on the matter on Friday afternoon, Abang held that the defendant had failed to provide facts that he had exhibited bias in his handling of the matter.

He ruled, “It is my humble view that the application lacks merit, it is an abuse of court proceedings and is appropriately dismissed,” Justice Abang said.

Before the ruling, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir faulted the allegation that the trial judge in charge of Metuh’s case, exhibited bias while carrying out his function.

Related:  Metuh breaks silence, sets the record straight

According to Tahir, there is no evidence by the defendant to show that the trial judge had exhibited bias in his conduct.

“There is no reason in the circumstance of this case that will make a reasonable person decide that the presiding judge has exhibited any conduct which has cast doubt on his ability to defend justice.”

The prosecution said Metuh has not provided “clear real likelihood evidence of bias against the judge”, and urged the court to discountenance the application for lacking in merit.

Etiaba in his response insisted that the trial judge cannot continue to preside over the case after he openly denied knowing Metuh sequel to the commencement of the matter.

“If it is established that my lord has met the defendant and he was with him when he received an award, then the judge cannot continue to preside over the matter,” Etiaba said.

Earlier, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, had dismissed Metuh’s petition seeking the transfer of his trial for money laundering from Justice Abang to another judge.

While responding to Metuh’s petition in a letter obtained by Post-Nigeria on Thursday night and signed by the Chief Judge’s Special Assistant, Ambrose Unaneze, he stated that, “it was too late in the day to re-assign the case in which the prosecution had already called all its witnesses.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is prosecuting Metuh and his firm before Justice Abang, on a 7-count charge of money laundering, including $2 million cash transaction.

Part of the charges preferred against them also bordered on the N400 million which the accused allegedly received fraudulently from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, in November 2014.

Related: EFCC shocks Metuh in court

Recall, that one of Metuh’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, had sent a petition to the Chief Judge, accusing Justice Abang of bias in the handling of the case after his client was called upon to open his defence.

The lawyer claimed in the petition that Metuh was a classmate of the judge in the 1987/1988 set of the Nigerian Law School.

He further claimed that, Metuh and the judge both practiced law in Lagos before the PDP spokesperson relocated to Abuja, and Justice Abang, on his part, was appointed a judge.

The lawyer also accused the judge of denying his client fair hearing by refusing to release to the defence team a copy of the records of proceedings of the court to enable them to appeal against some decisions of the judge in the course of the trial.

He alleged that the defence applied for the record of proceedings on February 8, 2016, to enable the defence to appeal against some decisions of the court, but that one month and one week later, the judge had yet to release it to the defence.

However, in his response to the petition through his Special Assistant, the Chief Judge said he could no longer take any administrative action on the case, considering the stage at which the matter was.

He advised that the only option open to the defendants was to file an application asking Justice Abang to disqualify himself from further handling the case.

Unaneze stated, “I refer you to your letter of March 16, 2016, and after a careful perusal of your application and the reasons stated therein, the Hon. Chief Judge has directed me to inform you that it is too late in the day for his Lordship to take administrative action with regard to your application.

“This is so, because the parties have already joined issues, but are at liberty to file an application before the judge for his consideration and appeal if not satisfied with whatever decision he may take.

“Please accept the assurances of My Lord, the Hon. Chief Judge.”

The judge had since denied the allegation that he deliberately withheld the record of proceedings to scuttle Metuh’s plan to appeal against some of the court’s decisions.

Related: Update: ‘Tears’ as lawyers abandon Metuh