How Jonathan paid N400m into Metuh’s corporate account, by witness
A defence witness in the ongoing trial of the National Publicity Secretary, People’s Democratic Party ( PDP ), Chief Olisa Metuh, yesterday narrated how former President Goodluck Jonathan paid N400 million into Metuh’s account.
The witness, a columnist with The New Telegraph Newspaper, Mr. Ike Abonyi, told a Federal High Court in Abuja that the former president had asked for Metuh’s account details to enable him to transfer money for the image laundering of the party and himself.
The counsel to the first defendant, Tochukwu Onwubufo (SAN), had asked the court for a short adjournment to enable him to study the brief. He said the constitution still allows for adjournments, though not more than 30 days at a time.
But Justice Okon Abang said the application for adjournment orally made by the counsel to the second defendant would not stop the day’s proceeding, which was for the first defendant to open his defence.
Abang said: “Having considered the oral application by counsel to the second defendant as well as the argument by the prosecution counsel, I need to say that I have decided that the only issue was the relevance of Section 3493 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which came as a new issue on his application for adjournment.
“The law is such that once the court has decided on an issue, no party can drag the court back on the same issue. Having ruled that the second defendant was not entitled to adjournment, I cannot reverse the decision and he cannot raise the issue again before this court.
“Section 3493 should be read subject to Section 3492 and as such, the section cannot be of assistance to the second defendant.
“However, in the overall interest of justice, the court will take the interest of the second defendant into consideration at the end of the proceedings.
“The court will take the defence of the first defendant and later adjourn at the instance of the second defendant”, the judge said.
At that instance, the first defendant witness was called to the witness box. Abonyi told the court that he was invited by Metuh to work with him as a public relations consultant when it was obvious that the PDP needed to enhance its image and that of its leadership.
According to him, a consulting firm, CMC Connect was also engaged by Metuh for its skills having worked for the party in the past.
“Metuh had called to say that he was not a media man but his role as the national publicity secretary entailed media and publicity and based on our existing relationship, he would rely on me. That was what he did, consulting me on issues of media and publicity”, Abonyi said.
He went on: “Eventually, when it was time for the general election, Metuh approached me at The New Telegraph and requested that he would need my services, that he would like if I could come into the party as a consultant to help him on the new challenge of improving the image of the party which he said, was in a bad shape and by virtue of his position, all eyes were on him to come up with strategies to boost the image of the party at the general elections.
“The consulting firm, CMC Connect also said it was willing to return but that the party was owing it. The Managing Director, Yomi Badejo, said that if Metuh would promise to help recover the debt, the company would be willing to work with him. Metuh said there was no money then but he promised to get resources from the party.
“That was at the point I left The New Telegraph to join him for the purpose of that new challenge. When I joined him, he told me that the CMC Connect would be needed and I told him that CMC Connect was too expensive and that we should use a smaller PR firm but he insisted on CMC Connect on the grounds that the assignment was enormous and that he would rather go for the best.
“The main consideration was the quality of their work. In addition to quality, the party was owing the company and Metuh has promised to pay them whenever funding came.
“Even when I attempted at luring him out of the company, he said he had made a commitment and would not want to default.We eventually called CMC Connect to join other journalists and stakeholders.
“Chief Metuh told us that the assignment given to him was also given to some other professionals and that we should see it as a challenge and ensure our own strategy would prevail in the choice of the party leadership and the former president.
“The team, anchored by CNC Connect rehearsed some strategies and after that, with Metuh presiding over most of the meetings, we all agreed that we have a good product to present. Chief Metuh then said we should wait for clearance from the Presidency.
“One afternoon, he came to me and said that he had received a call from the National Chairman of the Party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, that the president was ready for the presentation.
“Other members of the team were resident in Abuja except the M.D of CNC Connect, who was based in Lagos. Badejo was asked to take the next available flight to Abuja for the presentation. Because he was already expecting the appointment for the presentation, he took the next available flight and got to Abuja about 6:00 p.m.
“Other members of the team went in one vehicle while Metuh went in his car with the MD of the consulting firm. When we arrived at the Villa, only Metuh’s car was allowed to go in but he and Badejo waited for us at the security clearing room. We were later ushered in to meet the president, vice president, Senate president and national chairman of the party. Others are Liyel Imoke, Peter Obi and some aids to the former president including Dr. Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe.
“MD of CNC Connect was meant to speak for the team. After the presentation, the former president requested comments from other members and after listening, he said jokingly that we were too hard on him because virtually everybody that spoke made it clear to him that his image was in bad shape and that he was not helping matters with some of his actions.
“But those around him said that the presentation should be put into action because if it not was done before the election, it would be difficult to win the election given the impression of the people at that time.
“The president said that since it was the consensus of the people that Metuh and his team did a better job, other teams should collapse into Metuh’s team.
“At that point, Jonathan told Metuh that he had done a good job and that it should be put into action. He told him to send his corporate account details to him in order to mobilise him to start work”, he said.
On his view about the funding of Metuh’s office, Abonyi said it came from the party and its leadership, Jonathan. “After our presentation, we continued with our work and the MD of CNC Connect returned to Lagos and we were waiting to hear from Metuh on the financial aspect.
“One afternoon, he told us that the president called him and said he should check his bank, that some money had been paid”, Abonyi told the court.
There was also a cross examination by the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir. At the end of the day, the judge adjourned the trial till April 20 at the instance of the second defendant for the cross-examination of the first defence witness as well as the continuation of the trial.