Judge insists on Metuh’s trial despite petition to Chief Judge
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court has vowed not to be cowed or blackmailed by the petition written to the Chief Judge by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh.
He also announced that until it was decided otherwise, he would continue to preside over Metuh’s case without fear or favour. “I fear no evil because my hands are clean”, he said.
However, he was inclined to adjourn the case at the instance of the defendant for him to open his case.
Metuh through his lead counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had on March 16 petitioned the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Abuja, urging him to transfer the case to another Judge for fear that he might not get justice from the court.
At the resumed hearing, the court was intimated that Metuh’s counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, had sent a letter urging the court to adjourn trial for the day as he travelled to Ilorin, Kwara State, on medical ground. A letter was also received from the prosecution team urging the court to stand the case till noon, as the lead counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, was not present at the resumption of hearing.
Justice Abang consequently stood the case till noon.
Tahir, who later appeared as promised by noon, apologised to the court, stressing the prosecution’s readiness to begin trial but Ifedayo Adedipe told the court to consider application for adjournment since it might be difficult for him to handle the defence role for the day without the presence of the lead counsel.
Again, Tahir raised objection, noting that without Ikpeazu, there were enough hands in the defence team to open their defence.
After writing his judgment, Justice Abang posed a question to both the defence and the prosecution counsel demanding to know if they were aware of a petition written by the lead counsel to Metuh, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court urging him to transfer the case to another court.
While Tahir claimed absolute ignorant, Adedipe told the court that so far the petition emanated from Metuh’s legal team, he could not claim ignorant as the decision was binding on all of them.
He said: “Any letter written by the defence counsel is the decision of the defence team. Let us leave it as that.”
At this point, Abang busted out, stating that on March 16, the Chief Judge forwarded a copy of the letter from Etiaba praying him to transfer the case to another Judge.
He, however, said that in spite of the petition, he would not be intimidated to withdrawing from the case unless otherwise advised by the Chief Judge.
According to him: “I want to say that I have a circular from my boss that where there is a letter seeking the transfer of a particular Judge, the Judge shall continue to preside over the case until a decision is taken.
“As such, I shall continue to preside over this matter until the Chief Judge takes decision. I cannot be blackmailed and I fear no evil”.
Justice Abang also expressed surprise that the prosecution counsel was served the copy of the petition. According to the Judge, Etiaba fell short of professional ethics.
“I am surprised that Etiaba did not serve the prosecution. The conduct of Etiaba was contrary to the rule of professional conduct for legal practitioners. It is unethical. As a SAN, I expected him to have known the law. That is the law; it has not been amended. It is not only the defendants that are entitled to justice; the prosecution is also entitled to justice.
“He alleged that the court refused to release the copy of judgment. It is over 212 pages and I abandoned every other thing to make sure it is ready. He also alleged the accused person was my classmate but that would not have changed the order of the court”, Justice Abang said.