Absence of Defence Counsels Stall Trial of Metuh, Nyako, Others

Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 10, 2019, adjourned hearing in the case of diversion of public fund and money laundering preferred against a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, and a former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako and seven others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following the absence of their counsels, A.O. Onsiowu and Kanu Agabi, SAN, respectively.

Metuh is standing trial for allegedly receiving N400 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, in 2014, to run advocacy campaign for former president, Goodluck Jonathan, ahead of the 2015 general elections, while Nyako is standing trial along with his son, Abdul-Aziz, AbubakarAliyu and Zulkifikk Abba, on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion.

Prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, in the case involving Metuh, informed the court that the matter was slated for continuation of trial and that the prosecution was ready to continue, but that he was in possession of a letter informing him of the absence of the defence counsel and an application for an adjournment.

He said: “The counsel for the defendant said he was bereaved and has gone for the burial of a family member whose burial rites comes up today, Wednesday, April 10.

We were served with a copy of the letter, the reason for the absence is because he is bereaved, and death is an act of God, it is beyond human power, we shall not be opposing to the application.

Justice Okon Abang thereafter adjourned Metuh’s fraud case to May 13, 14, and 15, 2019.

In the same vein, the trial of Nyako, his son, Abdul-Aziz, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba, who are standing trial on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion, was also stalled following the absence of Agabi.

At the last sitting on April 8, 2019, the twentieth prosecution witness, an operative of the EFCC, had concluded his examination by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, narrating how the defendants, allegedly acquired Hill View Estate in Mpape, Abuja, and thus concluded his examination-in-chief. The defence was expected to cross-examine him on April 10, 2019.

At the resumed sitting, however, Barth Ogar, counsel for the first, second, sixth, and seventh defendants, prayed the Court for an adjournment on the ground that lead counsel to the defence, Kanu Agabi (SAN), was unavoidably absent to conduct the cross-examination, because of an important engagement Agabi had at University Of Calabar, Cross River State.

The Agabi’s representative, Ogar, thereafter sought the leave of the Court to submit a letter addressed to the Court from the lead counsel to the Defence, and he served the copies of the letters to the Defence and the Prosecution counsels as there were no objections to the application of the defence counsel.

But there was mild drama when Justice Abang threw out the application letter noting that: it is not proper for a letter to be submitted before the Court sits, in this case, Barth Ogar, leading other counsels and fully robed, announced appearance and wants to submit letter to the court, not in this court, therefore he should be prepared to cross-examine the witness, you have been called to bar and qualified to appear and handle proceedings.

Abang, however, adjourned the matter to May 13, 14 and 15, 2019, noting that Agabi had always been diligent in his handling of the case, and “notwithstanding the wrong procedure embarked upon by Ogar, the Court is still inclined to exercise its discretion.”

Source: EFCC Nigeria