A Federal High Court in Abuja has refused the application of the spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, asking the trial judge, Okon Abang, to discontinue with the matter over perceived bias.
Mr. Metuh is facing a seven-count charge of fraud.
The court had on March 24 adjourned the matter to April 8 for ruling on three applications.
Mr. Abang had on that day stated that the court would determine whether he (Mr. Abang) should continue as the trial judge.
He also said the court would entertain the second petition, seeking the case to be set aside pending the determination of a related petition at the Court of Appeal and the third application regarding an adjournment sought by Mr. Metuh’s lead counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu.
But on arrival in court on Friday, the second defendant, Destra Investment Ltd, was represented by a new counsel, Tochukwu Onwuibufo, who prayed the court to adjourn the matter to allow him acquaint himself with the case.
But Mr. Abang held that the court could not be led to adjourn because the second defendant, Destra Investment Company, “elected” not to be given fair hearing.
Mr. Abang ruled that during the previous sitting, Destra was represented by Emeka Etiaba and that he (Mr. Etiaba) was in court on Friday.
In view of this, the judge ruled that the second defendant could not force an adjournment based on a perceived lack of fair hearing.
Responding, Mr. Etiaba said it should be put on record that he was not allowed to air his view before the court’s March 24 ruling.
He also said the crux of their application was not just that Mr. Abang was a classmate of the first defendant, but that he claimed not to have known him (Mr. Metuh).
Mr. Etiaba said it had been established that Mr. Abang met Mr. Metuh at several places and that the former even attended an award ceremony held in honour of the latter.
Mr. Etiaba therefore submitted that recent development gave room for a perceived bias.
The trial judge then went through his record to determine whether any previous record of Mr. Etiaba’s consent was taken before the previous ruling.
Being unable to find such a record, Mr. Abang made a judicial notice of Mr. Etiaba’s notice.
Mr. Etiaba represented the first defendant, Mr. Metuh, in Friday’s sitting.
In his argument, the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, said there was no basis upon which any reasonable mind will regard the trial as biased.
He therefore prayed the court to dismiss the application.
Ruling on the matter, Mr. Abang said he had carefully considered the application by Mr. Metuh and the various grounds on which the application was made.
Mr. Abang ruled that there was no evidence that the court had been biased.
He added that the Chief Judge had indicated that he was satisfied with his explanation regarding the petition, adding that the record of the statement of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court formed part of the court’s record.
The trial judge therefore ruled that the application seeking his discontinuation with the matter lacked merit and was therefore dismissed.
Earlier, the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta had issued a letter, notifying Mr. Metuh’s counsel, Emeka Etiaba, of his (Mr. Auta’s) decision to allow Mr. Abang continue with the matter.
Mr. Auta stated in the letter dated March 24 that the first defendant had the right of appeal if he was not satisfied with the proceedings at the Federal High Court.
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