N400m ONSA Scam: Court Grants EFCC’s Request, Closes Metuh’s Defence
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on Friday, May 25, 2018 closed the defence of a former National Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, “for want of diligent prosecution.”
The order was made following an application by Silvanus Tahir, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, urging the court to close Metuh’s defence following the absence of the defendant and his legal team in court without lawful order.
Tahir, in his application wanted the court to note that, “the 1st defendant and his counsels headed by Onyeachi Ikpeazu, SAN and Emeka Etiaba, SAN, at every turn are deliberately employing tactics aimed at frustrating the trial.
While showing a sort of understanding on the absence of the Metuh because “he’s being tried in absentia”, Tahir expressed displeasure on the absence of counsel to 1st defendant “without prior notice to the parties involved or the court”.
Relying on Section 349 (8), ACJA, 2015, Tahir argued that “disengagement or sack notice must be given to the court and other parties not less 3 days”. He added that “the action of the counsels was willful and deliberate to frustrate proceedings and hold the court to ransom” and urged the court to proceed with the matter.
“Despite the sea of lawyers who has always appeared for Metuh in this matter, it is surprising that no legal representation is around today. Section 349 (8) ACJA stipulates a notice of disengagement or sack notice must be given to court and other parties not less than 3 days. The action of the defendant is willful and a deliberate attempt to scuttle the matter. I urge your Lordship that the proceeding should continue”, Tahir submitted.
Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, counsel to the 2nd defendant, on the other hand argued that, “Section 349 (8) relied on by the prosecution does not apply in this situation”.
Citing Section 345 (2) (4), Onwugbufor urged the court to discountenance the application of the prosecution.
“My submission will be that you make an order requiring the 1st defendant to appoint another counsel, for the sake of fair hearing”, Onwugbufor pleaded.
The learned silk also urged the court to give the 1st defendant 30days to make his choice adding that, if he doesn’t get a legal representation, the court should provide one as provided by law.
He noted that continuing the case in the absence of the defendant and his counsel would amount to “aberration”.
In his ruling, Justice Abang held that the matter could proceed in the absence of the 1st defendant and his counsels adding that the action would not amount to breach of Section 349 (2) of ACJA.
“The first defendant will have himself to blame by engaging lawyers that abandoned the proceedings without the leave of court. I cannot manufacture an application for adjournment when there is none. The court is not a Father Christmas to grant an adjournment when there is no application for it. Therefore, the case of the first defendant is hereby closed”, Justice Abang ruled.
Thereafter, the judge adjourned to July 3 – 5, 2018 for Metuh’s co-accused, Destra Investment Limited, to open its defence.
Metuh is standing trial on a 7-count charge of money laundering alongside his company, Destra Investment Limited, over the N400million he allegedly collected from the ONSA in 2014 to run advocacy campaign for former President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2015 general election.
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