Nigeria

Appeal Court nullifies Olisa Metuh’s conviction, orders fresh trial

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Wednesday, nullified the seven-year jail sentence handed a former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Wednesday, nullified the seven-year jail sentence handed a former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh.

The court held that Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja was biased in handling the case of the former PDP spokesman.

Mr Metuh, who held sway under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside his company, Destra Investment, on a seven-count charge of diversion of illegal monies received from Sambo Dasuki, an ex-National Security Adviser.

The former spokesman was also accused of transacting with the sum of $2 million without going through a financial institution, in violation of a provision of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were arraigned before the court in January 2016.

‘Guilty as charged’

On February 25, 2020, the court found the defendant guilty on all counts of money laundering and sentenced him to seven years in jail.

The former spokesman who was dissatisfied with the decision, filed an appeal through his counsel in March 2020 arguing that he was denied a fair trial.

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He said the judge was biased during the trial because of ”some remarks he made”.

Mr Metuh then asked asked the court to upturn the ruling.

‘Tainted ruling’

A three-member panel of the appeal court led by Justice Stephen Adah in a unanimous judgement held that the proceedings of the Federal High Court which led to the conviction of Mr Metuh was ”tainted and therefore must not be allowed to stand”.

During the ruling, Justice Adah held that the ‘expressions’ of the trial judge, during the course of the trial ”established that he was biased against the convicts”. He, therefore, ordered that the trial be conducted afresh.

“The narrative of the trial judge suggests someone who didn’t enjoy trying the appellant and counsel because he said they were picking on him. He was struggling with the case and even wished that he should be recused out of the case.

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“The influence from the narrative is indisputably to say the least that a trial judge was angered only in his mind that he was wrongly influenced and showed bias against the appellant in this case as this is what manifests from all the outbursts, he has infused in his judgement.”

“Learned trial judge showed in his comments, the influence of an abnormal desire all inclination to pursue a predetermined line of action against the appellant. This is no doubt is an influence of bias against the appellant. There is no way the learned trial judge can be seen to be detached from the malice against the appellant in the case as alleged.”

The appellate court ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment.

The appellate court also nullified the judgement of the trial court against Mr Metuh’s company, Destra Investment Limited.

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