Group urges CJN, NJC, to investigate Metuh’s petition against trial judge
A civil society group has called on the Chief Justice of the Federation, Mahmud Mohammed, to investigate controversies surrounding the ongoing trial of the National Publicity Secretary, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh.
Coming under the umbrella of Civil Society Coalition in Defence of Democracy, the group urged Justice Mohammed as well as the National Judicial Council (NJC) to look into the complexities of the case and take necessary steps to protect the integrity of the judiciary as an institution.
Speaking through its Chairman, James Michael, the group frowned at Justice Okon Abang’s continued handling of the case in spite of petition of bias against him.
Chief Metuh, who is undergoing trial for alleged criminal breach of trust, had on March 16, through one of his counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim N. Auta, requesting that he transfers the case to another Judge for fear that he might not get justice from Justice Abang’s court.
Justice Abang later confirmed the petition to the court. He however maintained that until the Chief Judge took a decision, he would continue to preside over the case.
His words: “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”.
The group however, described as unacceptable, the continued externalization of the court process by the trial Judge and the prosecution, a development, it said, was capable of undermining the sanctity of the process and give the leeway for miscarriage of the process from court trial to media trial.
The group stated further that so far as Nigerians were interested in bringing all corrupt persons to book, the process must be fair, just and beyond questions of biases.
“Of particular interest in the country today is the ongoing trial of the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, which has now been mismanaged to the extent that it has assumed a controversial dimension with the trial Judge engaging in open altercation and joining issues with the defendants on allegations of bias and infraction of rules of the court.’’
The group further stressed that the action of the prosecutor, EFCC, defending the trial Judge and insisting that he must not hands off the case, also raised issues and elicited concerns of possible connections between the Judge and the prosecution.
“This action of the Prosecution in going public with its defence amounts to an intimidation of the court, a development that bears pressure on the Judge, especially one that is already having altercation with the defence.
“Furthermore, we have carefully examined the issues raised in the request for transfer of case and motion for the judge to disqualify himself and noted certain issues, which should be addressed.
Whereas Nigerians look forward to a speedy and credible dispensation of justice, we must state categorically that we are not happy that the trial Judge and the EFCC have mismanaged this trial.
“A situation where a trial judge conducts himself as a Prosecutor leaves much to be desired and cannot guarantee justice as provided by the laws.
“It would therefore be morally wrong and counter-productive for Justice Okon Abang to continue to preside over this case as any judgment from him on this matter would no longer be seen as credible and fair,’’ the group insisted.