Alleged N400m Fraud Trial: Metuh Asks Court to Stay Proceedings

Trial of former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, was Wednesday brought to a halt as a fresh application asking Federal High Court, Abuja, to stay proceedings on the seven-count charge against him and his company Destra Investments Limited, was brought to the knowledge of the court.
Metuh is facing trial over N400m fraud allegedly committed at the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
At the resumed hearing, before Justice Okon Abang, counsel to the 1st defendant, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, asked the court to stay further proceedings on the matter pending the outcome of the Supreme Court on the appeal filed challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal that affirmed the ruling of the trial court on ‘No Case Submission’.
He also said that the Supreme Court had fixed date for the hearing of the appeal and June 9, 2017 for ruling on Stay of Proceedings application filed by the defendant that was argued on March 16, 2017.
Ikpeazu urged the court to determine whether the Supreme Court has the powers to grant the prayers as prayed and if so whether the applicant has made out a case for a grant of this application.
He said that the issue before the court is the use of its discretion and urged the court to use it judiciously and grant the application for a stay.
He said that the defence is aware of the provisions of the ACJA but in this instance the matter before the Supreme Court cannot be interpreted to mean a stay of trial because the criminal trial itself is not before the Supreme Court.
“The present application is not an application for stay of proceedings. The only point which this court ought to decide at this sitting is whether the Federal High Court ought to defer to the Supreme Court in a situation where the Supreme Court has already started hearing the same matter and adjourned a ruling on whether or not to stay the proceedings of the Federal High Court.
“The law is settled that at all times, a High Court will be acting in accordance with judicial procedure by refraining from any act that will foist a fait-accompli on the Supreme Court.
“As Counsel, we all are expected to assist the court and not to put the court in a precarious position. It is also on record that we have asked the Supreme Court to take the application instantly. It is a fundamental issue that the Supreme Court has started hearing the matter and had adjourned ruling. So this application for adjournment is consequent upon the ruling of the Supreme Court adjourning the case to June 9, 2017”, he said.
He another reason for stay of proceedings is that the court may have wasted its when the apex court decides otherwise. “You will find out at the end of the day if the Supreme Court rules in our favour the time in trying the case would have been wasted”, he held.
On his own part counsel for Destra Investments Ltd, Tochukwu Onwugbufor aligned with the submissions of the 1st defendant’s applicant, adding that what they are asking for is not an indefinite adjournment but, an adjournment to a specific date to which their application at the Supreme Court was adjourned to enable the court access the results of the proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Onwugbofor also stated that the adjournment would in no way occasioned a delay as parties in the case have filed their briefs and dates fixed for hearing of the matter.
He further argued that the court would be embarking on an exercise in futility if at the end of the day, the Supreme Court rules in favour of the defendant.
He therefore urged the court to grant the application for a stay of proceedings.
However, Metuh’s application was vehemently opposed by the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, who urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the defence because proceedings in criminal trials are no longer stayed since the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) came into effect.
Tahir, while stating that the application is an attempt to cause delay maintained that the proceedings of the Supreme Court does not affect the proceedings of the trial court.
He recalled that the defendant had made a similar application last year but the court went ahead with the proceedings, adding that no court has made any pronouncement against the action of the trial court.
The prosecution told the court that the trial was adjourned at the last sitting, after a motion by the defence to subpined a defence witness was dismissed by the court and they are now contending with another adjournment.
He said the steps being taken by the defence team amounts to holding the court and the state to ransom and urged the court to resist the attempt by refusing the application and order for trial to continue.
Justice Abang however adjourned till May 2, 2017 for ruling on the application for stay of proceedings until the outcome of the June 9, ruling of the Supreme Court, while hearing of the 2nd defendant’s application for similar adjournment was fixed for March 23

Author: News Editor

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