Ex-Spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, has appealed the May 23, 2018 ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja, directing that his ongoing trial will be conducted in his absence.
Metuh is standing trial before the court, along with his company, Destra Investment Limited, on offences bordering on money laundering. They are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang ruled on May 23 to dispense with Metuh’s presence in the trial following an application to that effect by prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir.
Tahir had, while moving the application noted that Metuh, who had fallen in court during the proceedings of May 21, and his lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) were absent in court without any reason, argued that the court could not be held to ransom by unwilling party and urged the court to proceed with the trial.
He also prayed that the case of Metuh, who had by then, called 11 witnesses, be closed since neither he nor his lawyer was around to state whether or not he intended to call further witnesses.
Metuh, in his notice of appeal, sighted late yesterday, and in which he raised seven grounds of appeal, faulted the decision by the trial court to proceed with the trial in his absence and also close his case.
The ex-PDP spokesman argued that the trial judge “misdirected himself and erred in law in his May 23 ruling.”
He now prays the Court of Appeal “to allow the appeal and set aside the ruling/order of the Federal High Court (Coram Justice Abang) delivered/made on May 23, 2018 and in its stead direct that the 1st defendant (Metuh) shall continue to be present throughout his trial in accordance with section 266(a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
He also wants the Appeal Court to direct that the case be withdrawn from Justice Abang and handed to a new trial judge, when he said: “The Court of Appeal is further urged to remit the whole case/trial to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court with an order directing him to assign or transfer the charge to another judge of the Federal High Court.”
The Nation learnt late yesterday that Metuh has also applied to the trial court for leave to appeal its ruling and that the Federal High Court has slated the application for hearing on June 13. It was also learnt that parties have been served hearing notices to that effect.
Metuh, in his notice of appeal, argued that the judge “erred in law and misdirected himself…occasioning a miscarriage of justice” against him. He equally accused the trial judge of making biased findings against him.
He also argued that, as against the trial judge’s finding, he “has offered reasonable explanation” for his absence from court when on May 22 and 23 his lawyer, Etiaba (SAN), said in open court that he was on admission at the National Hospital in Abuja.
He further argued that that a medical doctor attached to the Federal High Court, Dr. Adaora Ikeazor, communicated to the court the condition of the 1st defendant after his fall on May 21 as a result of which the court adjourned till May 22.
Metuh also faulted the court’s conclusion that the defendant disobeyed its lawful directive leading to his fall and misconduct in court.
He contended that he was already standing by the time the judge’s directive was communicated to him and was returning to his seat when he fell.