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N400m fraud: Court closes Metuh’s case in absence of his lawyer

* Fixes July 3 for Channels TV to play DVD of Sunrise programme
* Orders Metuh’s company to open defence July 2
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday closed the defence of former National Public Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh who is facing a seven-count charge of alleged involvement in N400million money laundering.

The court had on Wednesday proceeded with the trial of the case in the absence of Metuh, who is said to be recuperating at the National Hospital, Abuja after he collapsed in court on Monday.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, both Metuh and his lawyer , Emeka Etiaba (SAN), were absent in court.

But the prosecuting lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, cross-examined the 11th defence witness, Oladeji Bamidele.

In view of Etiaba’s absence, Tahir urged the court to close Metuh’s case.

Ruling on the application, Justice Abang recalled that the court had on January 25, 2018 granted Metuh’s application dated January 19, 2018 for him to call seven additional witnesses after nine witnesses had testified for him.

In the said ruling of January 25, 2018, the court also ordered that the seven witnesses should be in court at all times to give evidence, as the court will not grant any other adjournment in the matter at the instance of Metuh.

While noting that the order of the court, which was not appealed against subsists, Justice Abang stated that neither Metuh nor any of his lawyers was in court for the trial on Friday and that no reason was given for their absence as well as to state why the matter should be adjourned.

The judge then said, “The first defendant (Metuh) has abandoned his defence and the absence of his counsel shows lack of interest in the defence of the first defendant.

“The first defendant is also not in court to call any of his witness to give evidence in the matter.

“The only option the court has now is to close the case of the first defendant. I rely on Section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution to close the case of the first defendant.

“I cannot manufacture an application for adjournment for the first defendant, therefore, the case of the first defendant is now closed”.

The judge later adjourned the matter to July 2, 2018 for the second defendant (Destra Investments Limited) to open its defence in the matter.

Meanwhile, the lawyer who represented Channels Television that was summoned to appear to show cause why the station should not be asked to play the video recording of the Sunrise daily programme alleged to be prejudicial to the trial , Kelechi Nwaiwu, told the court that the station was in court in response to the summons of the court.

Nwaiwu told the Court that the station was not only represented in court but has also filed an affidavit showing cause and attached an unedited DVD of the Sunrise daily programme of the station aired on May 22, 2018.

Justice Abang commended the prompt response of the Channels Television in producing the unedited DVD of the programme even before it was asked.

The judge later adjourned the matter till July 3, 2018 and ordered Channels Television to be in court with their equipment to play the DVD of the programme in the open court to enable the court to determine whether the station allowed itself to be used to broadcast prejudicial statement, which the prosecution said mis-informed the public on the matter before the court and brought the court into disrepute.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly receiving N400million from the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Mohammed Dasuki (rtd) and using same to fund political activities of his party during the 2015 general elections.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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