The trial of former Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson, Olisah Metuh, has again been adjourned till Wednesday to allow the court entertain arguments by prospective witnesses in the matter.
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang ruled that it would entertain arguments on a motion filed by one of the prospective defence witnesses, Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser.
The judge said he would entertain Mr. Dasuki’s motion filed through his lawyer, Ahmed Raji before listening to the submissions of counsel for the second defence witness, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Jonathan had asked the court to order Mr. Metuh to make a deposit of N1 billion as travel and other logistics allowances before he can appear in the court.
Mr. Metuh is facing trial for alleged diversion of N400 million from the office of the former National Security Adviser. He is being tried alongside his company, Dextra Investment Ltd.
Following separate applications from Mr. Metuh, the court ordered the issuance of subpoenas on Mr. Dasuki and former President Jonathan to appear as defence witnesses in the matter.
The order was however objected by Mr. Mr. Raji who asked the court to set aside the subpoena on Mr. Dasuki pending his release from the custody of the State Security Service, SSS.
During its previous hearing, the court refused Mr. Raji’s application, resulting in Mr. Raji filing a fresh motion at the Appeal Court.
On Monday, Mr. Raji asked the lower court to suspend its subpoena on his client, pending the determination of the application at the higher court.
Reacting to the various applications, counsel for Mr. Metuh, Emeka Etiaba, said the exercise of his client’s right to fair hearing and defense of himself had been adversely misconstrued by the public.
Mr. Etiaba said his client was pained by the general perception of Nigerians on the views expressed by Mr. Metuh in his attempt to secure witnesses to defend himself.
Mr. Etiaba also reacted to an earlier remark made by the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, alleging that Mr. Dasuki had refused to appear in court.
After Mr. Tahir made the submission at the opening of session, other counsel in the matter urged the court to disregard the submission but the lawyer insisted that the information about Mr. Dasuki’s refusal to appear in court was valid.
Mr. Etiaba reacted to Mr. Tahir’s submission, saying the arguments raised in regards to Mr. Dasuki by Mr. Tahir could not be relied upon, since Mr. Tahir cannot be cross-examined on the submissions made in court.
Mr. Etiaba further said the two applications filed by Mr. Raji and counsel to Mr. Jonathan, Mike Ozekhome, were handed over to him in court on Tuesday.
He urged the court to allow the defence time to study and reply the application.
After taking arguments from the lawyers in previous applications, Mr. Abang adjourned to November 1 to entertain further arguments on the fresh motions.
Reacting to Mr. Etiaba’s request for time, Mr. Abang said the law does not mandate a lawyer to respond to applications in written form.
“I have carefully considered arguments canvassed by learned counsel representing the applicant. It is my humble view that the ACJA governs proceedings in the court. It is my view that there is no express law with regards to how respondents should react to written application.
“The counsel can respond through written addresses or address the court orally,” said Mr. Abang.
The judge therefore ruled that the matter will continue on Wednesday for Mr. Metuh’s lawyers to respond to the applications.
“The Court shall hear the motions filed by the two applicants on November I, 2017. The respondents should file their affidavits before the close of work today,” he said.
The judge added that the prosecution counsel failed to prove his submission that Mr. Dasuki refused to come to court.
“From the arguments deduced, I cannot come to the conclusion that Mr. Dasuki has refused to obey the order made by the Appeal Court. The appearance of Dasuki will be handled administratively.
“This matter is hereby adjourned again at the instance of the first defendant, being the person that called Dasuki to come to court”.
Mr. Abang said the court would first entertain the application by Mr. Raji for it to suspend its discussion on the issuance of subpoena pending the decision of the Appeal Court, before listening to Mr. Ozekhome’s appeal and other applications in the matter.
According to Mr. Abang, the decision of the court on Mr. Raji’s application for suspension of the subpoena will determine whether Mr. Dasuki will be asked to testify in the next sitting.
Similarly the decision of the court on Mr. Raji’s application about suspension of God subpoena will determine whether the motion by Mr. Ozekhome will be entertained.
“The Court will first deliver ruling on Raji’s application before that of Jonathan. Also the outcome of that application, will determine whether Dasuki will come to testify,” Mr. Abang said.
The judge added that frivolous application for adjournment will not be allowed in the trial.
Before adjoining the matter, Mr. Abang repeated his previous warning against what he termed as selfish reporting by the media.
Mr. Abang reiterated his earlier submission that a Nigerian newspaper quoted him as insisting that Mr. Jonathan must appear in court, saying the paper interpreted court proceedings ‘the way it liked’.
“Listen attentively to what is said in court. If I am too fast you can ask for certified true copy before you will publish what you like”.
After delivering the ruling, Mr. Abang refused a request by Mr. Ozekhome to allow him time to study the reply brief expected to be submitted by counsel on the matter, before the next sitting.
Mr. Ozekhome had appealed to the court to allow for some time so that he could study the briefs so that he would plan his arguments from the points of law.
Responding to that application, Mr. Abang said it was too late to entertain the request because he could not go back to the records.
Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, Mr. Ozekhome said the request made by his client had two faces: one was for the court to set side the subpoena or for an order to be made, pursuant section 241 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, or for the first defendant to deposit N1 billion as travel and other allowances for Mr. Jonathan.
Reacting to the order made by the court for counsel to submit their reply briefs to the fresh application on Tuesday, Mr. Etiaba said the trial of his client had been treated differently from similar trials since it started.
“It is already well past 12 pm and we have been asked to submit replies to two applications, both of which are not less than 40 pages. That is what we are facing. Olisah Metuh’s trial is one of a kind,” said Mr. Etiaba.