The embattled former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, has described as worrisome the submissions of a Federal High Court judge, Okon Abang, regarding his (Metuh’s) health and the ‘disappearance’ of the defendant’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba.
In a statement by the special assistant to Mr Metuh on Sunday, the forme spokesperson said Mr Abang was duly informed about Mr Etiaba’s reason for absenting himself from recent court sittings, as opposed to the submissions of the court.
Mr Metuh is facing trial on a seven-count charge of alleged diversion of N400 million from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
He is being tried alongside his company, Dextra Investment Limited.
Mr Metuh told the court, in 2016, that he was diagnosed with spinal cord injuries and required the leave of court to attend to his health condition.
Several attempts to get the court’s approval to travel for his treatment, however failed.
On May 21, Mr Metuh who had appeared in court on a stretcher in February, fell while attempting to enter the dock at the start of hearing.
Following his fall, a medical doctor, working with the court examined the defendant and submitted that he required immediate evacuation to the hospital for treatment.
An enraged Mr Abang however queried the doctor’s submissions and attempted to proceed with the hearing of testimonies from a defence witness, when Mr Etiaba announced his decision to withdraw from the matter.
According to the senior advocate, his decision to recuse himself was informed by the reaction of Mr Abang to the fallen client.
“I cannot remain in court and continue to defend a man whose medical condition I do not know. Whether he is dead or alive,” Mr Etiaba said while explaining his reaction to the situation to journalists.
Mr Etiaba’s application for withdrawal was however refused by Mr Abang on the grounds that the decision was “a ploy to delay the trial.”.
The court also ruled against a request by the defence lawyers to adjourn the matter till Mr Metuh is fit enough to return to trial.
After the ruling on Wednesday, Mr Etiaba did not appear in court on Thursday and Friday.
In a ruling on Friday, Mr Abang closed the case of the first defendant, on the grounds that Mr Etiaba was not in court to announce the appearance of other witnesses and that the lawyer “failed to provide a reason for his absence”.
In a statement on Sunday, however Mr Metuh said it was impossible for him to have made up facts about his medical condition, since he had been diagnosed of having the spinal cord complications “12 years before his trial began in 2016″.
“How can Mr Metuh be accused of feigning an illness he has been managing at the National Hospital, Abuja for the past 14 years? How can he be accused of disobeying an order of court when the judge’s directive to the registrar to inform him to sit down came only when he saw him struggling with the walker to negotiate into the dock? How can he be accused of deliberately staging the fall when he knows the severe consequences of such to his health? How can he be accused of turning the court into an accident scene because medical doctors from the court were attending to him?
“For the records, it is not true that Mr Metuh jumped bail. It is also not true that he did not provide any reasonable explanation for his absence in court. It is equally untrue that his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, did not provide any reasonable explanation for his absence.
“The truth of the matter is that the very next day after Mr Metuh’s fall, his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, duly informed the court in open session that the medical team of the Federal High Court had taken him to the National Hospital for admission. It is pertinent to note that the court permitted the medical team to take him to hospital.
“The explanation of Mr Metuh’s whereabouts was further reinforced by a letter from the National Hospital duly annexed as exhibit in an affidavit of facts by his brother and duly filed before the court ruling on Wednesday morning.”
According to the statement, Mr Etiaba had explained that he was traveling for a funeral ceremony.
“On the issue of absence of counsel on Friday, his counsel Emeka Etiaba, had duly filed and registered an affidavit of facts on May 23 informing the court that he was bereaved and would not be in court on Friday, 25th May 2015 as he was billed to travel to Nnewi, Anambra state. This affidavit was also served on the prosecutor in the matter.”
The statement further alleged that Mr Metuh’s trial is being given “a special attention” by the federal government, under the All Progressives Congress.
“The exposé by Mr. Johnson Ojogbani, Special Assistant to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, on Channels TV programme on Tuesday 22nd May, explained the reasons behind the desperation, misinformation and draconian tactics happening in his matter. It is our information that the media budget for this case by the EFCC is unprecedented.”
The statement queried the language of the court and wondered if Mr Metuh “will be privileged to have justice in the matter”.
“Did the judge take the evidence of the Federal High Court doctors who were called in by the court registrars to attend to him? Did the judge request from the federal high court doctors the result of their initial assessment including the initial blood pressure and status of his spine?
“Indeed, what is the basis and evidence for the hurtful comments by the learned trial judge? The choice of words used by Justice Abang on Chief Metuh over his illness is saddening and truly worrisome. Will he get true justice in the light of all these?”
The statement added that Mr Metuh remains unperturbed over the “attacks” on him.