The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, could not come to court, Tuesday, because he is having a bed rest at the National Hospital, Abuja, his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) told the court.
Recall Monday Metuh had asked the court to grant him leave to travel outside the country to enable him attend to his failing health.
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja, wanted to know why Metuh was absent in court.
Metuh’s lawyer, Ikpeazu, said the defendant was on a bed rest at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Thereafter, Ikpeazu passed on to the court registrar a signed medical report by a neurosurgeon consultant in the National Hospital, authencating that Metuh was actually in the hospital for a bed rest.
Ikpeazu then sought an adjournment of the case, adding that the situation in section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, in which the judge is allowed to proceed with a criminal trial without the defendant present in court, had not arisen.
The provision of the law provides that the court may proceed with a criminal trial if a defendant already granted bail is absent from court in violation of a court order or in the absence any good reason for the absence of the defendant.
Metuh Company – Destra’s lawyer, Tochukwu Nwugbufor (SAN), also supported the application for adjournment insisting that by virtue of the provisions of section 352(4) of the ACJ Act, the court could never proceed with the trial in Metuh’s absence.
Prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, did not oppose the application for adjournment but only referred the court to section 266(a) and (b) of the ACJ Act which makes it mandatory for a defendant to be present in court whenever his trial comes up.
However, before delivering his ruling, the Judge remarked that though Metuh had good reason to be absent from court, the medical report did not indicate how long Metuh will remain in the hospital, and for that the report was unhelpful to the court.
The Judge said the non indication of the period for the bed rest in the medical report made him to doubt whether the report was issued in bad faith, though he concluded that Metuh has been of good behaviour since the trial started.
The Judge then adjourned till May 30 for continuation of trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, on charges including fraudulent collection of N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014 and using same for PDP’s presidential campaign.
Metuh and Destra Investments Limited are also being tried on charges of money laundering involving alleged cash transaction of $2m.