A former President, Goodluck Jonathan, may have to repeat his request to be given N1 billion before appearing as a witness in the trial of former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisah Metuh.
This is because the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, venue of Mr. Metuh’s trial, struck out an application by Mr. Jonathan for the said fund, meant to serve as travel and logistic allowances, to be given to him (Mr. Jonathan).
The presiding judge, Okon Abang, agreed with the submission of the defence counsel that Mr. Jonathan was wrong to have relied solely on information provided by the media as the basis for his application.
Mr. Jonathan was ordered to appear as Mr. Metuh’s defence witness, following the issuance of a subpoena by the court on October 23.
The counsel to Mr. Jonathan, Mike Ozekhome, however asked the court to set aside the order for the issuance of the subpoena, on the grounds that the directive will amount to what he called an invasion of Mr. Jonathan’s right to privacy.
Mr. Ozekhome also submitted that the subpoena, whose details were obtained through the media, alongside other court proceedings, was vague in its nature.
Responding to the submissions of Mr. Ozekhome, Mr. Metuh’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, asked the court to refuse the application on the grounds that it was not ripe for hearing.
“My lord, the application is not only speculative, but premature and deserves to be struck out,” Mr. Etiaba said.
Mr. Etiaba added that the argument of Mr. Ozekhome that his client’s privacy would by abused, can only be decided when the former president appears in court.
Although the prosecution, counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, did not object to the application, Mr. Abang refused the motion, citing none service of the subpoena by court officials.
Mr. Abang said his court lacks jurisdiction to make enforceable orders regarding compliance to a subpoena yet to be issued by his court.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the court was yet to serve the subpoena on Mr. Jonathan, with a clerk saying he was told Mr. Jonathan was out of the country when he went to the former president’s house.
“Service of the subpoena on him goes to the root of the matter; failure of which will nullify the outcome of proceedings,” the judge said on Wednesday.
“Dr. Jonathan, with the greatest respect to him, cannot rely on a news item from the media to conclude that the invitation is vague. I am inclined to dismiss this application, because it has been heard on its merits, but I will strike it out,” Mr. Abang said.
Earlier, the court also refused an application by Mr. Dasuki that he be allowed to testify only after he is released from the custody of the State Security Service, SSS.
Reacting to the references made to various rulings from appellate courts by Mr. Dasuki’s awyer, Ahmed Raji, Mr. Abang said his court is bound to also access the facts of the current matter before it.
“My lords; I am bound by the decision of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal in this matter. However where the matter before the court are not similar to the issues that arose in the appellate court, I think I have a duty to discern the course of law in this matter.
“I must say that if the matter before the court is a civil matter, I would not have wasted time to entertain this arguments. The application is an application filed in a criminal proceedings,” said Mr. Abang.
The judge further ruled that it is a matter of semantics that Mr. Raji decided to describe his request as an ‘application for suspension of the subpoena’, rather than an application for stay of proceedings.
“Suspension of the order amounts to a stay of proceedings,” the judge said.
Mr. Dasuki was then ordered into the witness box to testify for Mr. Metuh on Wednesday.
At the witness box, however, Mr. Dasuki would later say he could not recollect details of his dealings with Mr. Metuh unless he was released by the State Security Service, in whose custody he has been for about two years, to go review his records.
The matter was adjourned till Friday for rulings on applications made on Wednesday.
Before delivering his ruling, Mr. Abang again sounded a warning to journalists, to desist from interpreting his ruling.
The judge threatened to institute an action against any journalist found misinterpreting his proceedings.