BEVERLY HILLS, January 26, (THEWILL) – Notwithstanding the overwhelming support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war, the trial of National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in the $2.1 billion arms scandal, has attracted mixed reactions. This follows his continued arraignment in handcuffs, while other suspects in the Dasukigate scandal have been brought to court by authorities without handcuffs.
Metuh, who is being prosecuted by the EFCC on allegations of money laundering and destruction of own confessional statement, has been brought to court at least four times in handcuffs inside a pick-up van, where he was locked in the rear cabin by Kuje, Abuja prison authorities.
Though the trial judges in the two separate arraignments have approved bail for him, he is yet to meet the bail conditions.
The former ruling party spokesman’s continued public appearance in handcuffs has attracted wild criticisms as well as praises from across different divides. While some have alleged vendetta motives, his political party, PDP has described it as a premeditated action calculated to subjugate the opposition party and “brazen display of authoritarianism” by the APC-led government. Others however see nothing wrong in handcuffing the politician.
THEWILL maintains that all those involved in the Dasukigate scandal, and indeed all corrupt persons must be brought to justice. But in doing so, the Federal Government and other arms of government must not by inference, create inequality among suspects in the trial process. In the face of the law, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Despite attempts by the Prisons Department to justify leading Metuh to court in handcuffs, THEWILL is constrained to note that suspects in the arms scandal trial, including the principal, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki, and others like television mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, former PDP Chairman Haliru Mohammed and his son, etc., have all been arraigned and transported to court without handcuffs. There is therefore, no justification for a variance in the case of Metuh. Above all, known violent criminals, including Boko Haram terrorists, are frequently brought to court without handcuffs. We recall the cases of Kabiru Sokoto, accused of masterminding the Madala bombing in Niger State on Christmas day in 2011, and Aminu Sadiq Ogbuchie, linked with the Nyanya bomb blasts, both of whom were never handcuffed to court.
As the trial continues, with witnesses lined up to testify against him, THEWILL demands an end to his continued appearance in handcuff, especially as he has not demonstrated any violent conduct at any stage during his court appearances.
THEWILL emphasises that trial of suspects must be devoid of any connotation of bias, directly by government or indirectly through any of its agencies. We reiterate that both the courts and the EFCC should prosecute the anti-corruption battle without prejudice to party affiliations or any sentiment.