The hearing of two applications by the former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisah Metuh, was stalled on Monday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, due to the absence of his counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu.
One of Mr. Metuh’s application before the court is for an order of court to compel the State Security Service (SSS, also called DSS) to produce former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, to testify in his defence.
The other application is for the release of his international passport, which is in the custody of the court’s registrar to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment.
At the resumed trial, the counsel to the second defendant, Tochukwu Onwugbufor told the court that Mr. Ikpeazu was not in court because he was at the FCT High Court.
Mr. Onwugbufor said he went to the FCT High Court to inform Mr. Ikpeazu that the court had stood down his matter till later in the day, but he (Mr. Ikpeazu) could not leave the court.
He said that at the time he entered the FCT High Court, a prosecution witness had tendered documents and a counsel was objecting to the admissibility of the documents.
“When I arrived the court, a prosecution witness, Babatunde Adepoju, an operative of the DSS had tendered a multiple of documents and a defence counsel was already objecting to the admissibility of the documents.
“Ikpeazu told me that it was his turn next to object to the admissibility of the documents and he could therefore not leave the court as the court would not allow him to leave.”
Mr. Onwugbufor said that Mr. Ikpeazu had utmost respect for the court and as such, had asked him to apologise on his behalf over his absence, adding that his action was not deliberate.
He therefore asked for an adjournment.
Responding, prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, said that he left the matter to the discretion of the court, adding that he thought Mr. Onwugbufor would have held the brief of Mr. Ikpeazu.
The trial judge, Okon Abang, adjourned the matter till February 22, saying it was in view of the passionate plea of Mr. Onwugbufor.
Earlier, Mr. Onwugbufor told the court that Mr. Ikpeazu had written to the court for an adjournment on the grounds that he was at the FCT High Court.
Mr. Onwugbufor who noted that the Federal High Court and the FCT High Court had coordinate jurisdiction, however, prayed the court for an adjournment.
He said this was because the matter in the FCT High Court had been granted accelerated hearing.
He urged the court to stand down the applications to enable Mr. Ikpeazu be available to move them.
His co-counsel, Emeka Etiaba, had also written a letter praying the court for an adjournment on the grounds of ill health.
The trial judge, Okon Abang, said the court would discountenance the letter written by Mr. Etiaba since he was not the lead counsel in the matter.
He stood the matter down to 1.30 p.m., saying it was in the overall interest of justice, adding that the defendants had exhausted the number of times they could ask for adjournment.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr. Metuh, who is on trial over alleged N400million money laundering charges, had asked the court to subpoena Mr. Dasuki, as his testimony was essential to his defence.
Mr. Metuh had called six witnesses in his defence, but said that Mr. Dasuki had to testify as well since the case against him was that he collected the money in question from Mr. Dasuki’s office, in a scandal popularly referred to as #Dasukigate.
Mr. Abang, however, asked Mr. Metuh to approach the relevant authority detaining Mr. Dasuki and ask for his release.
He said it was only after he had exhausted that option without success, that he could approach the court to issue an order.