$2.1bn Arms probe: EFCC slams fresh charges against Olisa Metuh


ABUJA — THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, on a fresh two-count-charge of destroying the evidence against him.

Metuh, who was yesterday, docked before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama on a two-count charge bordering on his alleged destruction of evidence against him, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Metuh was for the second time brought to court in handcuffs.

This happened just as the trial of embattled former National Security Adviser, NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd) on a 19-count-charge turned dramatic, yesterday, at the Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama as the trial judge stood down trial for two hours, insisting that he must be produced in court as required by law before he could continue with the proceedings.

Metuh however denied allegation that he destroyed a confessional statement he made before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

EFCC, in the charge which was signed by its Assistant Director, Legal & Prosecution Department, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, alleged that the PDP spokesman who is also facing another seven-count criminal charge before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, tore and attempted to chew the statement he made under caution while undergoing interrogation.

The anti-graft agency insisted that the destroyed statement would have been vital to its prosecution of the N400m fraud case pending against Metuh before the Federal High Court.

It said that Metuh, by his action, committed an offence contrary to sections 166 and 326 of the Penal Code Act.

Meanwhile, for the second time, authorities of the Kuje prison, yesterday, brought Metuh to court in handcuffs. Shortly after the defendant entered his plea, trial Justice Ishaq Bello adjourned hearing on his bail application till Monday.

Metuh had through his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, applied to be released on bail pending the determination of the charge against him.

Ikpeazu contended that the allegation against his client is a bailable one.

However, the prosecuting counsel, Tahir, while indicating his intention to oppose Metuh’s bail request, stressed that the charge levelled against him attracts two years imprisonment upon his conviction.

The EFCC lawyer equally told the court that the commission has already lined up three witnesses to testify against the defendant.

While adjourning hearing on the bail application, Justice Bello queried why the EFCC failed to incorporate the current charge to the one already pending before the FHC.

Part of the charge that was preferred against Metuh yesterday read, “That you, Olisa Metuh in January 2016 while in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, attempted to destroy evidence to prevent its production in court during trial contrary to Section 1 of the Panel Code.

“That you Olisa Metuh, with intent to cause damage to the property of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, tore into pieces statement you made under caution contrary to section 326 of the panel code and punishable under Section 327 of the same code”.

It will be recalled that Justice Abang had on Tuesday, granted Metuh bail to the tune of N400million.

The court however ordered that he should be remanded at Kuje Prison pending when he is able to perfect all the bail conditions.

Dasuki must be in court — Judge
At Abuja High Court where Dasuki is facing trial, the judge observed when the matter was called up at 9.00 am that, whereas the other accused persons were present in court, Dasuki who has been in detention, was not produced for trial.

Three different courts where Dasuki was arraigned for criminal charges had granted him bail but the bail orders were not obeyed by government which instead took the defendant to an unknown custody.

Justice Hussein Baba Yusuf, who took swipe at the Federal Government for failure to bring Dasuki, insisted that he would not proceed with the case until Dasuki was brought before him.

Consequently, the prosecutor, applied for about one hour stand-down to await the arrival of Dasuki.

Security operatives, who had taken the defendant to unknown custody in the past six weeks then ran helter-skelter to fish him out when the reality dawned on them that the judge will not shift position.

Dasuki was eventually brought to the court around 11:00am in compliance with the court order under tight security.

A judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola had on Wednesday ordered the Federal Government to produce Dasuki before him on February 16 to answer another set of criminal charges.

Why Dasuki must be in court
Justice Ademola maintained that it was wrong of government to have expected the court to conduct a criminal trial in the absence of the defendant and in violation of the law.

Dasuki was charged alongside erstwhile Director of Finance in the Office of the NSA, Mr. Shuaibu Salisu and a former Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Aminu Baba-Kusa.

They are facing trial alongside two firms- Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited, which the anti-graft agency said served as conduit pipes through which over N32billion was allegedly siphoned from accounts which the office of the NSA operated with both the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and other financial institutions.

The funds were allegedly distributed to delegates that attended the Presidential Primary Election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held in Abuja, a process that saw the emergence of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole candidate of the party.

All the accused persons had on December 14, pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as the court, on December 18, granted each of them bail to the tune of N200million.

Aside the seizure of all their international passports, Justice Yusuf equally ordered the defendants to produce one surety each, who he said must be a serving or retired civil servant not below the rank of Director that owns a landed property within the Federal Capital Territory worth N200m.

Though the trial was initially fixed for yesterday, however, it could not proceed as scheduled owing to the absence of Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, in court.

Raji had written to the court to explain that he was billed to appear before the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal, yesterday .

He sought permission of the court to defer the trial till a later date, an application that was not opposed by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN.

EFCC, in a 27-paragraph counter-affidavit it filed before the court, said it had sometime in September, 2015, received an intelligence report bordering on abuse of office, criminal breach of trust, stealing, conversion and receiving of stolen properties.

It told the court that huge sums of money were released to Dasuki by former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying part of the funds was to be used for the procurement of arms and ammunition for the use of the soldiers in the battle front.

The Commission said the funds “running into several billions of Naira”, were subsequently moved from the account of the office of the NSA with the CBN and some commercial banks to the account of private companies and individuals who have nothing to do with supply of security equipment or rendering of security services.

“That as a retired military officer and as a top security personnel with wide influence and affluence, he will use his position to intimidate, harass and influence the proposed prosecution witnesses if released on bail.
“That many of the proposed prosecution witnesses are public servants who had worked under the applicant herein and will be intimidated by the applicant if released on bail.

“That the offences being alleged against the defendant/applicant border on economic sabotage that strikes at the very foundation of Nigeria’s well-being and existence.

“That it is in the interest of justice to put the applicant in protective custody so as to shield him from a possible attack by the relatives of the innocent soldiers who lost their lives due to lack of adequate equipment and facilities caused by the diversion of funds meant for that purpose.

“That the applicant acquired a large volume of assets with the proceeds of crimes and my team is currently tracing the assets and if released on bail, the applicant will interfere with the assets tracing activities. That the applicant transferred huge sum of monies to various companies whose identities we are still trying to trace.

Culled from: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/01/2-1bn-arms-probe-efcc-slams-fresh-charges-against-olisa-metuh/


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