The trial of former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in the alleged N400 million fraud has been reassigned to a new judge.
Justice Obiora Egwatu of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, had fixed Oct. 14, 2021, for Metuh’s re-arraignment after the Court of Appeal’s decision which nullified the trial court’s judgment.
But on the adjourned date, Justice Egwuatu was not in court. He was said to have gone for the judges’ seminar in Lagos State.
The court, therefore, fixed Feb. 15 for the former PDP spokesman’s retrial.
But a check by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at Court 9 today, where the matter was expected to take place showed that the case between the Federal Government and Metuh was not on the cause list.
However, NAN gathered that the matter, which was yet to commence before Egwuatu, had been reassigned to Justice Emeka Nwite, the new judge who was recently transfered to Abuja division after the retirement of Justice Anwuli Chikere.
But when NAN visited Court 8, the chamber of Justice Nwite, though Nwite did not sit, a check on the cause list for today, Tuesday, indicated that Metuh’s matter was also not on the cause list
It was, however, gathered at Court 8 that the deputy chief registrar of FHC had informed that many case files would be transfered to Nwite’s court.
The matter was assigned to Justice Egwuatu last year following his transfer to Abuja division of the court.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja had, on Dec. 16, 2020, nullified a Federal High Court judgement that convicted and sentenced Metuh to seven years imprisonment for money laundering.
In a unanimous decision, a three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court held that the judgment of the trial judge, Okon Abang, delivered against Metuh on Feb. 25, 2020, was tainted with bias.
The appellate court held that Abang had by disparaging remarks he made in the judgement betrayed his premeditated mindset against the defendant (Metuh) whom he accused of writing various petitions against him.
According to Justice Stephen Adah who delivered the lead verdict of the appellate court, allowing the trial court’s verdict to stand “will set a dangerous precedent.”
Consequently, it voided the conviction and sentence that was handed to Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Limited, and remitted the case file back to the high court for a re-trial by another judge.
Metuh was jailed over an allegation that he received the sum of N400 million from the former National Security Adviser, Col. (retd.) Sambo Dasuki, prior to the 2015 presidential election, without contract approval or execution.
His earlier conviction followed a seven-count charge that was preferred against him and his firm by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. (NAN)