Prove Your Innocence, EFCC Tells Metuh… Says Allegation Against Justice Abang Baseless
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has urged the spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, to disprove the allegation of fraud and money laundering against him rather than seeking to malign the judge with the aim of scuttling his trial.
The EFCC argued that Metuh’s unsubstantiated allegation of bias against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and his claim that they (Metuh and Justice Abang) were mates at the Law School do not constitute a sufficient ground to ask the judge to quit the trial .
EFCC is prosecuting Metuh and Destra Investment Limited on a seven-count charge of fraud and money laundering in relation to the N400 million he allegedly received unlawfully from ex-National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki and the $2 million he allegedly got as gift at the last PDP national convention where ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was adopted as the party’s sole candidate for the last election.
They have been on trial in Justice Abang’s court since January 15 till the prosecution closed its case after calling eight witnesses, who were cross-examined by defence lawyers.
The EFCC, in its counter affidavit against their motion for the judge to quit and another for indefinite adjournment until the determination of their application at the Court of Appeal for a stay of proceedings at the Federal High Court, argued that Metuh and his company were trying to scuttle the trial.
Lead prosecution lawyer Sylvanus Tahir noted, in his written submission to the counter affidavit, that the allegations of bias and other claims by Metuh and Detra were intended to frustrate the trial as they had submitted to the court’s jurisdiction even when Metuh knew he was the judge’s schoolmate.
“All manner of allegations, as stated by the defendants, were cooked up by them just to justify frustrating the stalling of proceedings. We submit that the antics and gimmicks deployed by the defendants are nothing but mere afterthought and pure blackmail aimed at intimidating the court to drop the case in the guise or pretext of bias by the judge.
“The allegations of bias levelled by the defendants against the court relate merely to the exercise of judicial powers by the court, without any evidence of facts or circumstances that suggest that the court did, in fact, favour one side unfairly,” Tahiir said.
On Metuh’s claim that he was the judge’s school mate, Tahir argued that by virtue of the oath of office subscribed to by a judicial officer, a judge handling a case was only required to administer justice without fear or favour, irrespective of parties involved.
“In the circumstances of this case, even if the judge and the 1st defendant (Metuh) were classmates, one would have thought that relationship would have given more concern to the prosecution than the defence for obvious reasons. The prosecution would have been the one to entertain fear that the court may favour its classmate,” he said.
In response to Metuh’s allegation that there had been a “frosty relationship” between him and the judge , Tahir argued that Metuh’s refusal to duel on what constituted the supposed “frosty relationship” amounted to mere allegation without substance.
“The 1st defendant suddenly woke up when it is time to open his defence to remember an alleged ‘frosty relationship’ that had existed over the years. This is blackmail of unprecedented proportion, which cannot be a ground to disqualify his lordship (the judge),” he said.
Tahir also faulted Metuh’s claim that the judge frustrated his appeal by allegedly refusing to release records of proceedings, noting that the only decision of the judge, which Metuh appealed against was that given on March 9 and for which the judge released to him, a type-written copy of the proceedings on March 17.
“Other tendentious and mundane allegations of bias remain unsubstantiated and unproven. Even the normal practice of a litigant (either in civil or criminal cases) standing either in the dock or witness box until his counsel draws the attention of the judex, with an oral request for the litigant to sit down, which is acceded to by the court, has become an issue of bias.
“Another germane issue on the allegation of bias is that the test of real likelihood of bias is that of a reasonable man, not that of a man, who has made up his mind to pull down the institution of justice in a desperate bid to undermine the judicial process and get off the hook by all means,” Tahir said.
The prosecution lawyer urged the court to refuse Metuh’s application for indefinite adjournment pending the Court of Appeal’s determination of his (Metuh’s) motion for a stay of proceedings in relation to the trial.
Tahir faulted the application, citing sections 396(3) & (5) and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, and Section 19 (2) and 40 of EFCC Act. He argued that the defendants, knowing that their application for indefinite adjournment was unknown to law, failed to “state the particular rules of court under which the application for adjournment was brought.
“The point needs to be stressed that this is a criminal proceeding. The applicants did not bring their application for adjournment under any relevant section of the ACJA, 2015 to enable the court grant the application.
“The motion, brought pursuant to Section 6 (6) of the Constitution, is hopelessly incompetent and should be dismissed without much ado,” Tahir said.
Justice Abang is expected to entertain parties’ arguments on all applications by Metuh and his company on April 8, following which it would be determined whether the defence would be accorded the last opportunity to open its case or the judge to quit, for proceedings to commence afresh before a new judge.