Alleged N400m fraud: Metuh wants judge replaced

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

THE trial of Chief Olisa Metuh was yesterday stalled following a petition by a lawyer representing the spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Chief Judge of Federal High Court demanding the replacement of Okon Abang as the trial judge in the corruption case.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned Metuh for illicitly receiving N400 million meant for the purchase of arms for the fight against Boko Haram.
Metuh who had pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge was to open his defence yesterday after the court dismissed his no case submission for lacking in merit.
However, his lawyer, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) sought for an adjournment due to the absence of the defence lead counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) who was absent on health ground. It was in the process of ruling on the application for adjournment that Justice Abang disclosed in open court that Metuh has written a petition against him.
The letter by Emeka Etiaba, made public by the judge as the case resumed, introduced a new twist in the trial.
Justice Abang asked prosecution and defence lawyers whether they were aware of the letter sent to the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta.
“Are you aware that after eight witnesses were called by the prosecution, and the court gave its ruling on an application of no case submission by the defence, that Mr. Emeka Etiaba wrote the registrar to the Chief Justice of the Court, asking that this case be transferred to another judge?” he asked.
According to the judge, the reason alluded by Mr. Etiaba for the request of transfer of the case was that the judge had given certain interlocutory judgments in favour of the prosecution, and that he (Mr. Abang) was Mr. Metuh’s former classmate.
The letter also alleged that the court had refused to give the defence recordings of the previous ruling.
“I am not aware that the first defendant was my classmate, he said he is my classmate,” said Justice Abang.
The prosecution said he was not aware of the letter, and one of Mr. Metuh’s counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe, said “any letter written by a member of the defence is a letter by the defence team.”
Pressed by the judge for a definite answer, Mr. Adedipe said he had learnt in his long career as a lawyer to thread carefully.
Justice Abang denied he had been biased against the defence, saying the court had approved three adjournments at the request of the defence.

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