Erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, who is facing corruption charges, was on Monday, brought before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in an ambulance for continuation of his trial. Metuh was wheeled into the courtroom in a stretcher by a team of medical experts from the National Hospital, Abuja, even as his lawyers persuaded the court to suspend the trial till a later date. Metuh’s lead counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, told the court that his client discharged himself from hospital contrary to serious warning from his doctors. Aside filing an affidavit of fact that detailed the current state of health of the former PDP spokesman, Ikpeazu, SAN, equally adduced two exhibits, one being a letter that warned Metuh of the consequences of his decision to personally discharge himself from the University Teaching Hospital, Enugu.
The letter was signed by one Prof. Wilfred Mezue, a Consultant Neuro-Surgeon, who warned the defendant that the hospital would not be liable for any adverse consequence of his decision to discharge himself, on his health.
Meanwhile, the second exhibit was a document disclosing that Metuh had earlier paid the sum of N198, 000 to Memphis hospital for an MRI scan to be conducted on him.
The defense lawyers therefore urged trial Justice Okon Abang to “exercise the milk of human sympathy” and adjourn the matter for at least one month to enable the defendant to be medically fit to stand trial.
Ikpeazu said his client was referred to UNTH Enugu by Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital Nnewi, where he was initially hospitalized.
Similarly, the defense lawyer said his team would not object should the prosecution decide to conduct its own medical examination to determine the actual state of health of the defendant. “Even if your lordship decides to go on with this case, the defendant will not appreciate or understand the trial. He is a sick man. He is terribly indisposed.
“The first concern of a sick man is to get himself healed. What is the use of going on with the trial where the accused, though present in court, does not appreciate the sequence of what is going on? “I will therefore plead with your lordship to exercise the same milk of human sympathy which has characterized your adjudication in this matter and adjourn the case in line with application of the first defendant”, counsel to Metuh’s firm, Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufor, SAN, pleaded.
On his part, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, said it was not opposed to the adjournment request. “My lord, we are not in a position to counter what is contained in the affidavit of fact before this court. However, since there was no timeframe in the medical report for the defendant to be fit for trial, we will leave the issue of duration of the adjournment to the discretion of the court”, Tahir submitted.
He said there was need to disabuse minds of the public that EFCC was not out to persecute the defendant.
In a bench ruling, Justice Abang said he was minded to grant the adjournment request since it was not opposed. “A court of law must be firm in its decision. A court of law must be fair to parties and when occasion demands, a court should also be humane. “I am therefore inclined to exercise my discretion in favor of the defendant to enable him to receive medical treatment. This case is further adjourned till 14, 15 and 16 March”, Justice Abang held.
Immediately the case was adjourned, Metuh was wheeled into an ambulance from the National Hospital in Abuja marked 44Q- 20FG.
It will be recalled that Justice Abang had on January 25, threatened to order Metuh’s arrest should he fail to appear in court.
Justice Abang said Metuh would be arrested and remanded in prison custody pending the conclusion of the charge against him, in the event that he failed to attend Monday’s proceeding.
The court said it was not persuaded by claim that Metuh was lying critically ill at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital at Nnewi in Anambra state. The former PDP spokesman had previously forwarded to the court, a letter dated January 21, 2018, which was signed on behalf of the hospital by one Dr. O. C. Ekwegwu, indicating that he was admitted for medical treatment.
Metuh is answering to a seven-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Limited. EFCC is prosecuting him over allegation that he had before the 2015 Presidential election, received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any contract.