© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Olisa Metuh’s counsels pull out, say their lives being threatened
TWO Senior Advocates of Nigeria representing the former National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, in the corruption charges filed against him at the federal high court Abuja, say they are pulling out of the case.
The senior lawyers − Oyinyechi Ikpeazu and Emeka Etiaba − made this known in a motion filed before the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, on Tuesday, claiming that the decision was because of the numerous threats they have been receiving in relation to the matter.
Metuh is accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of receiving the sum of N400 million from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who himself is also being held for allegedly misappropriating the sum of $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms for the Nigeria Armed Forces.
Both Metuh and Dasuki had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Speaking in court on Tuesday, Ikpeazu said he and Emeka Etiaba have been going through immense pressure with respect to their appearance in the case and would be unable to continue to represent the accused person.
“I have received numerous threats to my life from diverse sources through telephone calls with disguised numbers giving an ultimatum and threatening to kill me based on the manner they claimed I had been mishandling the case,” Ikpeazu said.
“Emeka Etiaba informed me on March 4 in my office at plot 10, block Ix, David Dodo street, Gwarinpa, Abuja and I verily believe him, that he had received similar threats and will thus no longer proceed with the representation of the first defendant.”
Ikpeazu also said that he and his colleague, Etiaba, will not be able to adapt to the new directive given by the trial judge that the hearing would be held on a daily basis, especially given Metuh’s insistence that both lawyers must be in attendance at every hearing.
“This honourable court has ordered a day to day hearing in this matter and (the defence) counsel will be unable to afford the time, having regard to the diaries of their respective offices,” Ikpeazu said, “(and) the first defendant is insistent that he will no longer tolerate the two senior counsel he briefed to fail or refuse to appear personally for the hearing of the case. In the circumstance, it is impossible to avail the first defendant the legal representation he deserves in this case.”
This is the second attempt by Metuh’s counsel to pull out of the trial. The first was May 2018, when Justice Abang ordered that hearing should go on in spite of the seeming ill-health of the defendant. Metuh had collapsed in court on that day, but the trial judge insisted that the hearing must continue.
An enraged Etiaba refused to answer any further questions from the judge. “The 1st defendant had a terrible fall while trying to mount the dock, and I don’t even know if he is alive on that stretcher,” he said. “Since the court has insisted on proceeding with trial, I announce my withdrawal from the trial.”
But the application was rejected and the trial was later adjourned.
Metuh’s corruption trial has been dramatic right from its inception. In the course of the trial, Metuh had caused the court to order both Dasuki and former President Goodluck Jonathan to appear before it, but while the former has testified in the matter, the latter did not.
Also, Metuh has been hospitalised with a purported spinal cord ailment for which, according to medical reports presented in court, he would need to travel abroad for better treatment.
However, Justice Abang refused to grant him leave to travel. On one occasion, Metuh was brought to court on a stretcher, after the trial Judge threatened to revoke his bail if he continued to stay away from trial.