Alleged destruction of evidence: Court declines to stop Metuh’s trial.
An Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, on Thursday, dismissed a no-case application that former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, filed to his trial over an allegation that he destroyed an incriminating statement he made before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The anti-graft agency had in the charge before the court, insisted that the erstwhile PDP spokesman, had on January 5, 2016, tore a confessional statement he made before its operatives that interrogated him over the allegation that he illegally received funds from the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
It alleged that Dasuki had had prior to the 2015 presidential election, electronically transferred the sum N400million from an account the office of the NSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to Metuh via the account of his company, Destra Investment Limited. Though the Commission is currently prosecuting both Metuh and his firm before the Federal High Court in Abuja over the said crime, it filed a separate three-count charge before the FCT High Court, accusing him of destroying a vital evidence it intended to rely on in the matter. According to the prosecution, Metuh had by his action, committed an offence that bordered on mischief and obstruction of justice, contrary to sections 166 and 326 of the Penal Code Act and section 38(2) of the EFCC Act, 2004. Meanwhile, the defendant who had since pleaded not guilty to the charge, made a no-case-submission after the prosecution closed its case. He contended that the agency failed to establish a prima-facie criminal case against him to warrant the court to compel him to enter his evidence to the charge. Metuh maintained that the totality of evidence the EFCC tendered in support of the charge was not such that any court could rely upon to convict him for the commission of any crime. He therefore prayed the court to not only dismiss the charge for being incompetent, but to also discharge and acquit him on the premise that the prosecution failed to prove its case against him. However, in a ruling on Thursday, the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello who is presiding over the case, dismissed Metuh’s application, saying he was satisfied that he has explanations to give before the court. He therefore ordered the former PDP spokesman to be prepared to open his defence to the charge. EFCC had while presenting its case, told the court that Metuh destroyed his “confessional statement” upon realizing that it directly linked former President Goodluck Jonathan to the alleged illegal diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms. A lead investigator at the Commission, Mr. Junaid S’aid, who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, told the court that he was a member of a Special Task Force Team that received and investigated the petition that led to the arrest of the detained former NSA, Col. Dasuki, retd. He said the petition which was filed from the office of the NSA in January 2016, alleged that Metuh, through account no. 0040437573, which his firm opened with Diamond Bank Plc, received N400m from ONSA. The witness told the court that investigation by his team revealed that the transfer was done without any contract approval. He said upon the realization that there was no basis for the transaction, his team, on January 5, paid an unscheduled visit to the residence of Metuh at Prince and Princess Estate, Abuja, and subsequently invited him for questioning. S’aid told the court that Metuh honoured the invitation and was interrogated by six EFCC operatives, namely, Ibrahim Musa, Michael Wetkas, Bello Umar, David Nkpe, Bello Adama and Eucharia Ibrahim, after which he volunteered a statement to the commission. He maintained that Metuh had in his statement, disclosed that the N400million he received from the NSA had the approval of ex-President Jonathan. The witness said: “My Lord, when he concluded writing his statement which was on four sheets of the EFCC statement form, I collected the statement and read over it, I then handed the statement over to my superiors Musa and Wetkas. “When I was handing over the statement, the defendant said he was surprised that he had written that much and that he felt he had given too much information. “Because of the comment, I was worried so I gave him the statement sheets, one after the other for endorsement. After endorsing the first and second sheet, to my surprise, the defendant tore the third sheet.
“My lord, he suddenly tore the statement sheet into pieces, in great shock and surprise I stood up I asked him why he did what he did? “He replied that he did that because he was no longer willing to give the information on that statement sheet. I then requested the pieces of the statement, he declined and attempted to put them in his pocket, I then cautioned him and told him to respect himself but he insisted that he was going to dispose of the torn sheet. “I persuaded him to handover the torn sheet and brought one plain paper before him, he poured the pieces on the plain sheet, my other colleagues were there looking at us in surprise as well. “He furthered tore them into pieces, saying only in the movies would this be recovered. At that point, I poured the pieces in the commission’s transparent polythene bag as an exhibit and made entry of the incident into the EFCC’s incident duty station diary as well as EFCC’s pocket notebook. “Later in the day he requested to make an additional statement, which he made, wrote his name and signed but declined to make any other statement on the torn paper.’’ The witness told the court that the third sheet that was destroyed by Metuh revealed that he received the money from Dasuki to boost campaign activities of the PDP with a view to ensuring the re-election of ex-President Jonathan in the 2015 general election. Metuh was also alleged to have admitted that he used part of the fund to take care of his personal needs. Meantime, the court had admitted into evidence, EFCC’s incident duty station diary, EFCC’s pocket notebook and pieces of Metuh’s shredded statement.
First Seen on Vanguard News, written by Ikechukwu Nnochiri.