An attempt by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, to halt his ongoing trial before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja was unsuccessful yesterday.
In a new twist Wednesday, counsel to the second defendant (Destra Investment Limited – Metuh’s Company) Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), informed the court that he had filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain counts 1 and 2 of the charges preferred against his client by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He insisted that proceedings in the trial be put on hold pending the hearing and determination of issues raised in the application dated April 13 and filed on April 14. Mr. Metuh’s counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), aligned himself with Mr. Onwugbufor’s submission.
However, counsel to EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, objected to the motion, citing Sections 396 (2) and 221 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) as sufficient legal provisions to encourage continuation of trial.“Objections such as the one issued cannot be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on grounds of imperfection or error on the charge, Mr. Tahir said.
“Section 396 (2) makes it clear that after the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge, provided that such objection shall only be considered alongside substantive issues, and ruling on such objections delivered at the time of judgment of the matter”.
He added that, the timing of the preliminary objection was curious and urged the court to discountenance it. In his ruling, Justice Abang refused Mr. Onwugbufor’s application and held that the objection would be heard at the end of proceedings.
“Submissions by all counsels have been duly considered. The matter involving the defendant is a criminal matter, and the ACJA is the law governing such matters, made pursuant to the 1999 constitution. However, the objection will be heard at the end of proceedings, and the ruling delivered along with the judgment”,Justice Abang ruled.
Thereafter, the first defence witness (DW1), was called to enter the witness box for further cross-examination, but Mr. Onwugbufor, who was apparently not satisfied, insisted that his application should be heard, even if ruling would eventually be made at the end of the trial.
Angered by the counsel’s conduct, Justice Abang ordered the witness to be cross-examined. “Cross examine the witness! I have given a ruling. If you have no question, tell the court so that we can make progress in the matter”, he said. Cross examination of the witness was eventually conducted and concluded after Etiaba intervened and pleaded on behalf of Mr. Onwugbufor.
The matter was adjourned to April 27, 2016 for continuation of trial. Mr. Metuh is standing trial alongside one other, Destra Investment Limited, for allegedly receiving the sum of N400 million (four hundred million naira) from a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is also standing trial in separate cases.