Thursday, 25 January 2018

EFCC’s bid to send my client to prison premature, Metuh’s lawyer tells court

Lead counsel to embattled former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, yesterday, described as premature, bid by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to get the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail granted his client.

Ikpeazu also faulted the EFCC for relying on a non-existent law to apply for the court to remand and allow Metuh to attend his trial from Kuje prison.

Whereas EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, hinged the application on the provision of section 173(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, Metuh’s lawyer insisted that there was no such section in the ACJA.

Rather, he drew attention of the court to the fact that the said portion of the law only has section 173(2b), which he said does not empower the court to summarily revoke the bail of a defendant on trial.

Ikpeazu argued that EFCC should have brought its application under section 169 of the ACJA, which he said does not also allow the court to make a consequential order such as returning Metuh to prison custody.

“My lord the section provides that they can apply for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. The law, however, gives the defendant opportunity to be heard before his bail could be revoked.”

Meanwhile, trial Justice Okon Abang has reserved ruling on the matter till today.

Justice Abang said he would equally rule on Metuh’s request for adjournment of his trial to enable him receive proper medical attention.

The court will also rule on request by the former PDP spokesman to call 10 more witnesses in defence of the criminal charge against him.

Metuh is answering to a seven-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Limited.

EFCC is prosecuting him over allegation that he had before the 2015 Presidential election, received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any contract.

The agency alleged that the fund was electronically wired from an account that ONSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to Metuh, via account no. 0040437573, which his firm operated with Diamond Bank Plc.

It told the court that the fund which was released to Metuh and his firm by detained former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd,   was part of about $2.1billion earmarked for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the North East.

The prosecution which had earlier closed its case after it called eight witnesses that testified before the court, equally alleged that Metuh was involved in an illicit transaction that involved the exchange of $2million.

Metuh had at the resumed proceeding on the matter  on Monday, failed to appear in court, though he filed a letter pleading for adjournment on ground of ill-health.

His lawyer informed the court that he was hospitalised at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital at Nnewi in Anambra State.

To support the claim, Metuh’s legal team forwarded to the court a letter dated January 21, 2018, which was signed on behalf of the hospital by one Dr. O. C. Ekwegwu, indicating that he was admitted for medical treatment.

Metuh was said to have been rushed to the hospital last Saturday after his health deteriorated while on a visit to his home town.

Owing to his absence in court for continuation of the trial, EFCC applied for his bail to be revoked, adding that he should be made to attend the court’s proceedings from prison.

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