A former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, has explained why he had no representation during the last hearing of the case of alleged fraud brought against him.
Mr Metuh is facing trial on alleged diversion of N400 million from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
He is also being tried in a separate court for alleged destruction of his statement at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Mr Metuh, who informed the court shortly after the commencement of his trial about a spinal cord injury he was managing, could not attend the last sitting due to the health challenge.
During that sitting in May, the judge, Okon Abang, ordered the closure of Mr Metuh’s case because the defendant and his lawyer were not in court.
The judge blamed the defence for delaying the matter. He acted based on an application by the prosecution for the case of the first defendant to be closed.
According to Mr Abang, the failure of Mr Metuh to either avail himself in court or ensure the attendance of his representation meant that he was through with his attempts to defend himself.
Subsequently, Mr Abang ordered the closure of Mr Metuh’s case and adjourned the matter till July 2 for the opening of the second defendant’s case.
But at the opening of session on Monday, Mr Metuh’s lawyer, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, informed the court that he had written the court to explain that he was indisposed and could not attend the court prior to the last sitting on May 25.
Mr Ikpeazu also said he had not undertaken to stop defending his client and was ready to proceed with the mater.
According to Mr Ikpeazu, his other colleague, Emeka Etiaba, had also written the court to explain that he was attending another matter at the Supreme Court on the adjourned date.
Mr Ikpeazu said copies of the notification written before the last hearing in May were provided to the prosecution counsel while a lawyer from Mr Etiaba’s chamber was assigned to attend the hearing with his principal’s copies, that day.
He faulted the lawyer for failing to attend the court and accused the prosecution of failing to disclose the fact that it (prosecution) was notified of the reason for the absence of the lawyers.
Mr Ikpeazu said although the court could exercise its discretion on the application, it was a matter of law that a defendant should be given a right to fair hearing.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also told the court that since there was no defence lawyer in court to formally announce the closure of the case by the defence, a decision to consider the matter closed would amount to a deprivation of their right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the Constitution.
He, therefore, asked the court to set aside its May 25 decision which ordered Mr Metuh’s case closed. He also asked that the court allows the defendant finish his defence.
The prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, did not oppose the application but asked that the court ensures a firm desire on the part of the defence to earnestly proceed with the defence.
The case was adjourned till July 3 for ruling.