Metuh’s trial: Drama as witness tells court how she helped Metuh change $2m to naira
The trial of Olisa Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, on seven-count charge of corruption and money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, began on Monday at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
However, the trial was not without drama as the the presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang had to rule on two applications by lead defence counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN) to adjourn the trial.
In his first application before the commencement of the trial, the Defence Counsel had asked to adjourn the trial based on the application for variation of bail he had filed before the court.
Ikpeazu who informed the court that he has just been served by additional proof of evidence by the prosecution counsel said he needed to have access to information from his client to be able to defend him.
But he was opposed by the prosecution counsel, Slyvanus Tahir, who argued that the defence counsel had access to his client at Kuje prison and has been served with proof of evidence since 15, January.In his ruling, Justice Okon Abang said the pendency of the ruling on the variation of bail application filed by Metuh cannot stop the trial already fixed to begin today.
The Judge, who said he will rule on the bail application on Wednesday, therefore, affirmed that the trial will continue as he asked the prosecution to call his witnesses.
He, however, said the prosecution witness will not call any witness related to the proof of evidence he just filed.
The first witness called by prosecution is Nneka Ararume who described herself as a Wealth Manager with ARM.
Nneka told the court that on 2 December, 2014 she received a call from Metuh who he described as her company’s client to come to his house in Prince and Princess Estate, Abuja as regards his portfolio in ARM.
She said on arrival at the house, Metuh took her to a private room where he handed $2 million to her.
She said Metuh told her to change the dollars to naira and transfer it to the account of Dextra Nigeria Ltd, his company.
The witness said from Metuh’s house, she proceeded to the office of one Emesie in Wuse 2, Abuja and handed over the sum of $1m to him for exchange into naira.
Ararume said she also gave one Mr. Kabiru Ibrahim, a bureau de change operator another $1m to change into naira.
The naira equivalent of the funds, the ARM manager said was to be transferred to the account of Dextra Nig. Ltd.
She added that it was confirmed to her later that day that the naira equivalent of the dollars was transferred to the account of Dextra.
However, there was another drama when the defence counsel was asked by the Judge if it is interested in cross-examining the witness.
Rather than proceed with the cross-examination, the defence counsel asked the court to adjourn so as to enable it gather evidence necessary for the cross examination.
The Defence Counsel argued that some of the documents needed for the cross-examination are in the custody of banks and only the defendant can get them from there.
The prosecution counsel however opposed the application for adjournment as he argued that everything said by the witness is already filed in the proof of evidence which has been given to the defence counsel since 15 January.
In his brief ruling Justice Okon noted that the court has said it will not entertain any frivolous application during the trial.
He also said the defence agreed that it has been served with proof of evidence. While emphasising that the fact that the defendant has not perfected his bail cannot be a reason to stop trial, Justice Okon noted that trial of Metuh would have continued even if he was refused bail.
He therefore ruled that there is no ground for adjournment of the trial. With the ruling, the defence counsel proceeded to cross-examine the prosecution witness.
Under cross-examination, the prosecution witness said she knew that Metuh has been a long time client of his company and that she did not know how long it took the PDP National Publicity Secretary to gather the funds he gave her to change into naira.
The second prosecution witness was Esie, a Bureau De Change operator who brokered the the exchange of $1 to naira.
He told the court that Nneka called him on 2 December that she has $1m belonging to a client for sale and when he asked who she selling it for, she told him it was for a client.
He said he agreed with her at the rate of N183 to a dollar.
Esie said he called a bureau de change operator, Capital Field Investment in Lagos about the transaction and the company agreed to buy $500,000.
He added that the company transferred the sum of N46m and N45 million to the account of Dextra as the equivalent of the half of a million dollars.
The witness added that the remaining $500,000 was sold to one Etionye who transferred the sum of N92 million to the account of Dextra.
He added that a total of N183 million was transferred to the account of Dextra as naira equivalent of $1m.
Under cross examination, Esie agreed that the transaction is valid.
Before adjourning, Justice Abang however asked the prosecution to ensure that all his 18 witnesses are available for continuation of trial on Tuesday.
Metuh was first arraigned before Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court on a 7-count charge of corruption and money laundering on 15 January.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.