The judge handling the trial of Olisa Metuh, the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has said he had neither social nor work relationship with the politician.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja said he did not know Metuh during his (the judge) practice as a lawyer and while in school.
The judge’s position is contained in his response to a petition written against him by Metuh to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
Justice Abang’s response is dated March 23.
Metuh had, in the petition written against by one of lawyers, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), claimed among others, that the judge was his classmate at the Law School in 1988 and that he last met the judge late last year at the Meridien Hotel, Akwa Ibom.
Metuh, who said he was worried he could not get justice before the judge, accused him (Justice Abang) of bias and of deliberately refusing to release records of proceedings to enable him appeal the judge’s earlier decisions.
The PDP spokesman, whose move is seen as attempt to scuttle his trial, is praying Justice Auta to transfer the case to another judge to commence afresh.
Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited were arraigned before Justice Abang in January on a seven-count charge, in which they were accused of retaining proceeds of unlawful act and engaging in money laundering.
The prosecution closed in February after calling eight witness. But, rather than open their defence, Metuh and his firm made a no-case submission.
In a ruling on March 9, Justice Abnag rejected the no-case submission, on the ground that the prosecution has established a case against Metuh and his company, requiring them being called upon to enter defence.
Rather than open his defence, Metuh, on March 11 petitioned the court’s Chief Judge, raising sundry accusations against Justice Abang and requested the transfer of the case against him to another judge.
Lead prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir said he was not served a copy of Metuh’s petition as required.
Justice Abang, in his response to Metuh’s petition, a copy of which The Nation sighted in Abuja, although he neither knew nor had any relationship with Metuh, it was impossible for the relationship Metuh claimed existed between them to affect the facts and laws in relation to his (Metuh’s) trial.
“With respect to the first issue that the petitioner Emeka Etiaba (SAN) stated that the 1st defendant in Charge FHC/ABJ/CR/05/2016 was my classmate in the Nigerian Law School, my Lord, for the records, I was at the Law School in 1987/88 Academic Session.
“I am not aware that Olisa Metuh was my classmate in the Nigerian Law School. I cannot recall seeing him in the time session in my time. In the law school, we were over 1,000 students and we had then two sessions, morning that I attended.
“He is not from my place, Oron, in Akwa Ibom State. I did not see him as a student in University of Calabar that I attended between September 1983 till June 1987.
“I have never met him in practice anywhere in the country before I was elevated to the bench in June 2009. Again, he claimed he met me in Le’ Mariden Uyo late last year.
“I was not in Le’ Meriden Uyo late last year . I had no function that I attended in Le’ Meriden Uyo late last year. I did not meet him in Le’ Meriden Uyo late last year.
“If the records show that he is a lawyer and was called to Nigerian Bar on November 3, 1988, which record I am yet to see, that cannot affect the facts and the law.
“I attended recently my class reunion meeting in Abuja, Lagos and Enugu, I did not see Olisa Metuh in the places I mentioned. I am not related to Olisa Metuh in any way, I do not know where he comes from,” Justice Abang said.
On Metuh’s allegation that majority of the judge’s rulings was in favour of the prosecution, Justice Abang noted that as a lawyer, Etiaba knew what option exists for a party, who is not comfortable with a court’s decision.
“As regard the issue that I made interlocutory decisions in favour of the prosecution in the matter, my response here is simple. And that is, that I am entitled to give decisions in matters placed before me for adjudication having heard parties.
“That is why there are appellate courts. If he is dissatisfied with those decisions, I think Emeka Etiaba (SAN) ought to know what to do.
“As regard the alleged non-release of the record of proceedings, I think Emeka Etiaba (SAN) is not fair to me at all. I will leave him to his conscience. He has an improper motive in this regard.
“For the records, my lord, the defendant applied for the Certified True Copy of proceedings at the time proceedings were going on from day to day. I approved same and directed my secretary to type the proceedings.
“The proceedings were bulky in nature because I heard the case from day to day. When the secretary concluded typing the proceedings, I abandoned all other matters before me and concentrated on checking the typed proceedings to be in line with what were in the court’s records.
“When I proof-read the proceedings and was satisfied that it represents what transpired in the open court, I endorsed same for certification and released the proceedings to them on March 15, 2016,” Justice Abang said.
When parties were last in court on March 24, Justice Abang noted that Metuh, in addition to his petition, has applied to the judge to disqualify himself from further trying the case, raining similar issues as contained in the petition.
The PDP spokesman has also applied to the court for an indefinite stay of proceedings pending the determination of his appeal.
On March 24, Justice Abang adjourned to April 8 for hearing of the both applications by Metuh.
The judge said the outcome of his rulings on the applications would determine the future of the case.
”If the application for stay of proceedings fails, the defendant will be at liberty to open is defence for the last time,” the judge said.