Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday validated the arrest of the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh on January 5, 2016 and his continued detention for 10 days by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC before he was arraigned on charges of money laundering and other offences.
Justice Okon Abang, ruling on Metuh’s fundamental human rights enforcement suit, declared that the arrest of the PDP spokesperson was lawful since it was based “on reasonable suspicion” that he committed an offence.
The judge, who dismissed Metuh’s suit for lacking in merit, also ruled that his (Metuh’s) detention between January 5 and January 15, 2016 was lawful and constitutional because it was backed by an order of court.
Justice Abang took the position after he dismissed the no-case submission the defendant made through his team of lawyers, led by Chief. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN.
The court said it was satisfied that there was a prima-facie nexus linking the defendant and his company, Destra Investment Limited, to N400million that was transferred from an account of the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on the order of the erstwhile NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, (retd).
Justice Abang further noted that Metuh had in a statement he made before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, admitted that he was the sole signatory to the account where the fund was lodged in.
“There are several questions that only the defendant can answer.
He admitted knowledge that on November 24, 2014, the sum on N400million was transferred to his company’s account with Diamond Bank Plc.
“Did the 1st defendant enquire from ‎the bank the source of the money? If he did, what was the response of the bank? It is only the defendant that can answer the question.
“If he did not enquire from the bank, did he report the matter to the EFCC or the Police? If he did not inform the police about the cash inflow into his company’s account, why did he fail to do so?
“Why did he disburse the fund to PW6 and 7, and also to Chief Tony Anenih? It is my view that only when the 1st defendant answers the questions that it will be clear if he knew that the transfer of the N400million formed part of illegal proceeds of crime by the former NSA.
“I have only heard from the prosecution and I am satisfied that a ‎prima-facie case has been made out against the defendant.
There is urgent bed for the 1st defendant to tell the court whether indeed he gave $2million to the PW-1 (Nneka Ararume) to convert to Naira equivalent and also the origin of these funds.
“It is my position that the defendant cannot be charged for money laundering if the source of the funds are legitimate”, Justice Abang added.
He noted that one of the witnesses had insisted that the $2million was linked to $47million that was withdrawn from the CBN by Dasuki and handed over to the Aide-de-camp to ‎former President Goodluck Jonathan to share to PDP chieftains that participated in a convention the party held on November 27, 2014.
“The no-case submission lacks merit and same is accordingly dismissed. The defendant is to enter his defence today”, the court ruled.
EFCC had in a seven-count charge it preferred against Metuh and his firm, alleged that the N400m was part of about $2.1billion that was originally earmarked for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against insurgency in the country.
It said the fund was electronically wired from an account the Office of the NSA operated with the CBN, to Metuh, through account no. 0040437573, which his firm operated with Diamond Bank Plc.
Whereas EFCC insisted that it had through oral and documentary evidence that was presented by eight witnesses it brought before the high court, established a prima-facie criminal case to warrant Metuh to enter his defence to the charge, on the other hand, the defendant, prayed the court to discharge and acquit him, contending that the prosecution failed to establish that he was involved in an illicit transaction.
Meanwhile, the court ‎yesterday fixed ‎March 17 for Metuh to open his defence.
Metuh had through his lawyer, Dr. Ikpeazu, SAN, sought an adjournment to enable him to apply for a subpoena to be issued on persons he intends to call to testify for him.
The application was however opposed by the prosecution, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, who urged the court to compel Metuh to immediately mount the witness box to explain all he knew about the alleged illicit transactions.
Earlier, Justice Abang refused to declare the 10 days Metuh spent in EFCC detention illegal and unconstitutional.
In a separate judgment, the held that the anti-graft agency acted within its powers, having obtained a remand order from an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court. ‎It stressed that sections 6, 7, and 41 of the EFCC Establishment Act, and section 31(1) (c) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, empowered the agency to arrest the applicant upon reasonable suspicion that he committed a criminal offence.
The court maintained that Metuh was arrested over allegation bordering on money laundering, which is said constitutes an economic crime.
Even though the court observed that the 10 days detention period exceeded what was stipulated in the constitution, Justice Abang said nothing could be done about it since the order of the Magistrate Court subsists.
Consequently, the court dismissed Metuh’s fundamental right enforcement application, even as it awarded N15,000 cost against him, but in favour of the EFCC.


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