The former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisah Metuh, on Thursday asked Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to disqualify himself from continuing with his case.
Mr. Metuh, who made an oral application through his counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, said he no longer had confidence in the court presided by Mr. Abang.
The application followed the court’s refusal to grant two applications filed by Mr. Metuh.
One application prayed the court to summon the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, by way of a subpoena to testify as witness.
The other application prayed for to release Mr. Metuh’s international passport to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment.
Mr. Abang said the court had in May 2016 refused Mr. Metuh’s application for the release of his passport and wondered why a similar application was brought before the court.
“The defendant ought to have appealed the earlier ruling. This is not a sentimental or sympathetic issue. It is purely an issue of law. The applicant should not create problems for the court,” Mr. Abang said.
While refusing the application to summon Mr. Dasuki for lacking in merit and substance, the court held that Mr. Dasuki was not a compellable witness in the trial.
According to Mr. Abang, there is no record before the court to prove that the defendant has made any effort to approach the authority holding Mr. Dasuki to ask for his release.
“It is not the duty of the court to compel anyone to come and give evidence in court when that person is not a compellable witness.
“The name of Dasuki was not included in the list of witnesses filed by the defendants. The question is, at what stage did the defendant make up his mind to include Dasuki’s name in its lists of witnesses?
“The application is made in bad faith and with the intention to delay the trial. The defendants have exhausted all the adjournment they are entitled to.
“The first defendant is no longer entitled to any adjournment in this matter having been granted eight adjournments since the commencement of the trial.
“Therefore, the application to issue a subpoena will not serve any purpose. The law is no respecter of persons. This application is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed.”
However, a drama ensued between the judge and Mr. Ikpeazu when the court asked him to call his next witness.
Mr. Ikpeazu said the court had shown clear bias against Mr. Metuh and added that the ruling was against the interest of justice.
“I pray the court to recuse itself from going on with the trial since we lack confidence in it. This application is made in the interest of justice.
“Every reasonable person in this country knows that we lack the capacity to meet the DSS and request them to release Dasuki to come and testify,” Mr. Ikpeazu said.
He urged the court for more time to approach the SSS to release Mr. Dasuki in the view of the refusal of the court to issue a subpoena.
On his part, prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, held that the insistence of the defendant that he could not proceed with the matter without the presence of Mr. Dasuki was misconceived and had no accommodation in law.
He urged the court to order the defendants to proceed with their defence, pending when they put their house in order to produce an appropriate witness.
Mr. Tahir urged the court to ignore the application to recuse itself from the trial and proceed with the matter.
The judge told Mr. Ikpeazu that his statement was contemptuous, but Mr. Ikpeazu insisted that his statement was backed by facts.
Mr. Abang, in a short ruling described the statement made by Mr. Ikpeazu as “contemptuous” of the court.
According to him, in contempt of the court, the judge is the complainant as well as the prosecutor and the judge, adding that he would however, not take action against Mr. Ikpeazu.
He said his action against the contemptuous remarks was not out of fear or cowardice, but because the court was trained to develop thick skin against such statements and not to pick offence when offended.
The judge further dismissed the application for the court to rescue itself for lacking in merit, saying, there was nothing before the court to show that it was biased.
He adjourned the matter till March 20, 21,22,23 and 24 for Mr. Metuh to close his case, and second defendant, Dextra to open its defence.
Mr. Metuh is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly receiving N400million from Dasuki, “knowing fully that it was proceeds of an unlawful act.’’(NAN)