The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court Abuja to proceed with the ongoing trial of former PDP Spokesman, Olisa Metuh in his absence.
The EFCC's counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, made the request in an application at the resumed trial following Metuh’s absence in court.
His application was sequel to that of Metuh’s counsel, Emeka Etiaba, (SAN) that the matter could not go on since Metuh was not in court.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) recalls that Metuh collapsed in court on Monday while attempting to enter the dock when his matter was called and was taken away in the court’s ambulance.
Tahir, however, insisted that the judge, Justice Okon Abang should proceed with the matter in his absence since his fall was on account of his disobedience and disregard for the orders of the court.
“I wish to draw the attention of the court to yesterday’s events. The defendant was using a walking aid to support himself and when the matter was called, to hearing of everyone, the court asked him to remain on his seat.
“However for reasons best known to him,he ignored the directives of the court and made his way to the dock which resulted in his fall and the rest is history,” Tahir said.
According to him, suffice it to state on our part that what happened in court on Monday amounts to misconduct since the defendant willfully ignored the directives of the court.
The prosecutor maintained that moreover, the defendants had not furnished the court with a satisfactory evidence, such as a medical report, as to why Metuh was not present in court.
He added that Metuh was not entitled to the benefits of Section 266 of the Adminstarion of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA), and urged the court to rather invoke provisions of Section 266(a) to take the action of Metuh as misconduct.
He further submitted that while the law provided that the a criminal trial could not go on in the absence of the defendant, there were exceptions to the rule.
“If the court marries Section 266(a) with Section 352(4) which deals with trial in absentia, the court will be more than comfortable to proceed with this trial in Metuh’s absence.
“This is because he has violently disobeyed his bail condition and the only rider to proceeding in his absence is that it should be after two adjournments. We had one adjournment yesterday and there will be one today.”
The prosecutor also told the court that proceedings in the ongoing matter were discussed on a television program where one of Metuh’s lawyer made prejudicial comments.
“On my way to court this morning, I received a call where I was told that Proceedings in this matter were extensively discussed on Sunrise Daily, a programme aired on Channels Television.”
He said that he was constrained to bring the development to the court’s attention since it was not the first time it was happening.
He alleged that all what the defence was doing were ploys to frustrate, scuttle and delay the matter.
Earlier, Metuh’s counsel had told the court that following the fall of his client in court on Monday, he was currently receiving treatment in a hospital and was unable to attend his trial.
“I wish to draw the court’s attention to the fact that the defendant is not in court. He was taken by the court’s ambulance with the medical personnel to the National Hospital Abuja where he is receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit, (ICU).
“In view of the clear provisions of Section 266 of ACJA, it is my submission that the trial cannot go on in his absence since it is a criminal matter which requires the presence of the defendant in court.
” I therefore ask for an adjournment to enable the defendant recuperate and return to continue his trial,” Etiaba said.
On the submission of the prosecution that Metuh acted in disregard of court directives, Etiaba said that the account given by the prosecution was not what he witnessed in court.
According to him, the defendant was already in motion as soon as his matter was called and didn’t know that the judge had asked him not to bother going to the dock.
Tochukwu Onwubufor, (SAN), counsel to Metuh’s company, the second defendant in the matter aligned himself with Etiaba’s submission.
Onwubufor added that Section 266 of ACJA made it mandatory for the defendant to be present in court for his trial.
He, however, said that this was except where the defendant misconducted himself in such a manner as to render his presence impracticable or undesirable.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang adjourned the matter until May 23 to rule on whether or not a reasonable explanation was given by the defence for the absence of Metuh in court.
Justice Abang also said he would rule on whether proceedings in the matter should go on in the absence of Metuh.
He is to also rule on whether or not the court should compel the General Manager of Channels Television and the producer of the programme, Sunrise Daily to provide the tape of the programme aired on Tuesday.
NAN reports that Metuh is standing trial along with his company, Destra Investments Limited, on a seven count charge which involves laundering two million dollars.
He is also charged with fraudulently receiving N400 million from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Metuh had told the court that he was suffering from a spinal chord related ailment for which doctors had recommended surgery as definitive treatment.
He had applied for the release of his international passport on three occasions to enable him travel abroad for surgery but the court refused all three applications.