Justice Abang Refuses To Suspend Metuh’s Trial

SAN FRANCISCO, June 19, (THEWILL) – A Federal High Court in Abuja has refused an application by a former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, for the suspension of his trial pending the determination of his appeal at the Supreme Court.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is prosecuting Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, before Justice Okon Abang at the Federal High Court in Abuja on seven counts of fraud and money laundering charges.

The alleged offences involved the sums of $2m and N400m which the defendants allegedly received unjustifiably from the Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014 allegedly to fund the PDP’s 2015 presidential campaign.

The trial had been put on hold due to interlocutory applications by the defence since December 16, 2016, when the defendant called his sixth witness.

Metuh is asking the Supreme Court to set aside an earlier decision of the high court which ordered the defendant to open his defence. He also asked the apex court to suspend his ongoing trial at the lower court, pending the determination of his substantive appeal, but the application was refused on June 10.

The Supreme Court in a ruling on the matter on June 9, 2017 asked the former PDP spokesman to continue his trial while the ongoing appeal subsists.

On Monday, Justice Okon Abang fixed Tuesday for resumption of the trial, even as he in a separate ruling, dismissed another application seeking the release of the Metuh’s passport which is in the court’s custody.

“The coast is now clear for the resumption of the trial that was suspended to abide the outcome of the application dated March 17, 2017. The application has been dismissed.

“In the light of this, the matter is adjourned until 1 pm on June 20, 2017, for further hearing of the first defendant’s case,” Justice Abang ruled.

Although Metuh had in his application dated March 17, 2017, only specifically asked the court to await and adjourn until after June 9, 2017, the date the Supreme Court had scheduled for its ruling, Justice Abang in his ruling on Monday said the application amounted to asking for a stay of proceedings.

“In my view, the application for an adjournment of further trial to abide the occurrence of an event in future is seeking to stay proceedings,” the judge ruled.

Dismissing the application in line with the decision of the Supreme Court, he held that, “By virtue of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 this court has no power to stay proceedings in a criminal trial”.

In the second ruling, the court also dismissed an application filed by counsel for Destra Investment Limited’s lawyer, Tochukwu Onwugbufor SAN, asking the court to release Metuh’s passport to enable him travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment for a period of five weeks.

While striking out the application, Justice Abang said he lacked jurisdiction to reopen the issue having heard parties and a considered ruling delivered on it on May 25, 2016.

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