Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja on Tuesday reopened Olisa Metuh’s defence after setting aside the court order which closed the embattled defendant case on May 25, 2018.
The court also directed the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to arraign three presenters of Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme : Chamberlain Usoh, Gimba Umar and Nneota Egbe in court for prejudicial comments and statement.
Metuh , a former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and his company, Destra Investment limited are facing seven -count charge before the court for allegedly laundering N400million.
Ruling on Metuh’s application seeking to reopen his defence, the judge held that the order closing Metuh’s case was made in default as neither Metuh or his lawyer was heard before his case was closed.
The judge, however , justified the court decision on the grounds that Metuh and his lawyer, Mr Emeka Etiaba (SAN) were in court when the matter was adjourned to 22nd, 23rd and 25th May for continuation of defence.
He noted that Etiaba (SAN), who took permission to attend to a matter at the Supreme Court on 23rd May 2018 never return to the court. Another lawyer , Obinna Okwonkwo, who was sent to represent the defendant also did not attend the court session.
The judge added that neither Metuh nor his lawyer offered a proper reason for their absence in court on the said day the order was made.
The court while noting that the defendant and his lawyer abandoned the court proceedings, added that Metuh had placed conditions that he would only testified if former President, Goodluck Jonathan testified.
Nonetheless, Justice Abang, said, “I bend backwards to accommodate him and set aside the order made on 25th May to allow him call two more witnesses.
” He should not deny himself hearing. Let him give explanation in the charge before him”.
Abang further enjoined Metuh not to create further scenes in court by coming on a stretcher, adding that the court of late has been in the news and negatively too.
The judge ordered the TV presenters and a lawyer Benchux Nwosu to be arraigned after listening to a recorded television programme produced and aired by Channels Television on the ongoing trial of Metuh.
He said that Nwosu, one of the lawyers in defence team, should be to referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for alleged professional misconduct.
Their arraignment which should be in any court of competent jurisdiction is to enable the court decide whether the statement made by the TV presenters and their guest on Sunrise aired on May 22, 2018 are prejudicial or contemptuous.
The judge said, “It is clear that the statement of the programme was aired outside the court not within the court, therefore I have no jurisdiction to determine whether the statements are prejudicial to this court.
“Though I have no jurisdiction to make findings of the statement made by the three persons representing Channels TV have constituted prejudicial discussion.
“I have jurisdiction to refer this matter to the body that can determine such”.
The judge then gave orders for the matter to be referred to the disciplinary committee of the NBA and directed the prosecuting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to file copies of compliance to the judgement within 30 days.
The prosecution is also expected to comply with the order for the arraignment of the three staff involved in the production and broadcast of the said programme along with Nwosu in a court of law.