The trial of former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD ), Olisa Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited on charges of money laundering was stalled yesterday owning to Metuh’s absence in court.
Metuh and Destra are being tried before the Federal High Court in Abuja for allegedly receiving N400m unlawfully from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in 2014. They are said to have also engaged in money laundering to the tune of $2m.
At the scheduled resumption of the trial, Metuh’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), told the court that his client was absent because he was on admission at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, Anambra State.
Ikpeazu noted that the hospital has written a letter dated January 21, 2018 indicating that his client had been on admission since January 20, 2017.
He read some portions of the letter from the hospital, where it stated that “we are managing him” and that it “may refer him to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital ( UNTH ), Enugu” for further treatment.
Ikpeazu said he knew that the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi hospital “is not as equipped as UNTH Enugu.”
In reaction to the reference to a recent Supreme Court judgment on the case by the prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, Ikpeazu said the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang has always given the case prompt hearing.
He said the claim about Metuh’s ill health was not orchestrated by the defence to frustrate the trial.
Ikpeazu applied for an adjournment to a later date to enable the defence report to the court on his client’s health situation.
In further reaction to Tahir’ observation that the Supreme Court had, in its January 12, 2018 judgment in the appeal by Destra, order accelerated hearing, the company’s lawyer, Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), said the Supreme Court’s directive for a speedy trial would not have a remarkable impact on the trial.
Onwugbufor said, “Everybody who has participated in this case knows that your lordship has never tolerated any delay.
“From my experience, the court has been very expeditious in the handling of this case and matters before it. Even the motion that went to the Supreme Court was determined by your lordship and it never constituted any delay to the hearing of this case.”
Responding, Tahir said Metuh’s absence would hamper further progress in the trial. He said he would not oppose the defence’s request for adjournment because it was based on health ground.
Tahir noted that the development would defeat the intention of the Supreme Court in its January 12 judgment. He said, “The apex court was clear and very emphatic on the need to bring the case to a conclusion.
“The Supreme Court made an order directing this court to treat this case with dispatch. And here we are confronted with the situation that will seemingly defeat the order made by the Supreme Court,” Tahir said.
In his ruling, Justice Abang observed that the trial was scheduled to resume for the prosecution to cross-examination Metuh’s 9th witness, Adebayo Bodurin.
The judge agreed to adjourn to the next day (today) since the prosecution did not oppose the defence’s request for adjournment to enable it brief the court on Metuh’s health status.