The spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, will commence his defence after a long legal battle between the counsel and the court.
Mr. Metuh is facing a seven-count charge of fraud linked to the allegedly diverted $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who himself is being tried in a separate case.
The trial Judge, Okon Abang, had on April 8 ruled that Mr. Metuh must commence his defence, Monday, after dismissing five applications preventing the commencement of the trial.
Among the applications dismissed on Friday was that brought by Tochukwu Onwubufo, a new counsel to the second defendant, Destra Investment, who asked the court to give him time to go through court proceedings, since he was a new party to the matter.
Mr. Abang, however, refused the application on the ground that the counsel was wrong in applying for an adjournment through a written letter when he himself would be present in court.
“Once a counsel appears in person he can no longer send a letter to the court, he can make the application orally”, Mr. Abang stated.
He further said the second defendant along with Mr. Metuh had outdone their right of adjournment and that no further adjournment would be granted at the instance of both defendants.
Mr. Abang therefore ruled that Mr. Metuh opens his defence within five minutes, but later adjourned after Mr. Onwubufo drew his attention to section 396 (5) of the ACJA and other sections of the act which stated that counsels to both parties could still be allowed an adjournment that shall not exceed seven days including week days.
The Monday case
But on Monday, Mr. Onwubufo told the court that the request he made, Friday, for time was yet to be attended.
He stated that based on section 36; (B) and (C) of the constitution, his client was entitled to all the details regarding the case in which an accused person stands trial.
He added that it might be important for him to cross-examine witnesses who had testified against Destra Investment, stressing that the letter he had written to the court before Friday’s sitting contained various important applications that were not looked at, because the court refused to consider his written application.
“All the applications made to the court and determined by it were never known to me,” Mr. Onwubufo stated.
Parts of what was contained in the letter by Mr. Onwubufo is that Destra Investment had disengaged Onyeachi Ikpeazu, Mr. Metuh’s lead counsel, who was standing in for the first and second defendant.
Other applications included the request for time and for details of court proceedings to be accorded Mr. Onwubufo.
Mr. Onwubufo further said the ruling of the court that the first and second defendants had outdone their adjournments did not prevent them (The first and second defendants from making request for further adjournments), following section 396 (5) of the constitution.
He added that the ACJA also provides that the court grants a new counsel, such as himself a reasonable time, not exceeding 30 days to go through the court proceedings.
The defence lawyer therefore prayed the court for an adjournment to allow him time to go through the certified through copies of evidences, as well as other court proceedings after they have been made available to him.
At that point, Mr. Abang noted that the application for certified true copies of documents should have been made through the office of the chief registrar, not directly to the office of the Judge.
In his reply, the prosecution, Sylvanus Tahir argued that the points raised by Mr. Onwubufo have all being argued and conclusions reached.
He said the former counsel to the second defendant, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, should have given the court at least a three days notice before disengaging himself from the case, which was not the case here.
Mr. Tahir argued that although it’s counsel may be new to the case, the second defendant, Destra Investment Ltd, is not a new party to the matter; and that all the court proceedings had been served on it, which makes it legally an obligation that Destra Investment provides same to its counsel.
Responding to some of Mr. Tahir’s arguments, counsel to the First defendant, Emeka Etiaba, said there was no legal obligation for Mr. Ikpeazu (who was just arriving the court) to have notified the court of his disengagement since he was not the one that disengaged himself, but was sacked by Destra Investment.
He further said if there was mis-compliance on the part of the defence, the in-coming counsel shouldn’t have been made to face the consequence of their mistake.
Mr. Etiaba further stated that the appearance of the team of the first defendant on Friday clearly did not cover the second defendant on the same day.
Trial must continue
In his ruling, Mr. Abang said the court lacks the jurisdiction to review its own decision.
He noted that the court had given its ruling on the application for adjournment on Friday and would not be made to go back its ruling.
The Judge however ruled that the application for time will be considered at the end of Monday’s sitting.
More details later…
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