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Appeal Court nullifies Metuh’s conviction, orders retrial [update]

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The Court of Appeal has, on Wednesday, dismissed the conviction of the former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Ltd.

This was contained in two judgments in the appeals filed by Metuh and Destra, marked: CA/A/306C/2020 and CA/A/CR/309/2020 read by Justice Stephen Adah.

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court had convicted and sentenced Chief Metuh and his company to seven years imprisonment for money laundering offences.

The appellate court dismissed Metuh’s conviction on the basis of manifest bias by the presiding judge, Justice Abang.

The three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment, held that Metuh and Destra’s trial was trailed with bias and prejudice against the defendants.

Justice Adah held that from the record of proceedings, it was evident that the judge portrayed himself as one who had an axe to grind with the defendants and his team of lawyers.

The appellate court judge recalled how the trial judge narrated his ordeal in the hands of the defendants and their lawyers.

Justice Adah noted that it portrayed him as someone who was not willingly trying the case, adding that a trial judge should be detached from the case before him and accommodate both parties in the case.

He also pointed out that a trial judge was expected not only to be fair to both sides, but must be seen to be impartial in his handling of any case brought before him.

That was not the case with Justice Abang, he stressed, who, he held, did not treat the defendants and their lawyers fairly.

He said: “His (the trial judge’s) comments betrayed the mindset of the court against the appellants (defendants).”

Going on, he added: “Where somebody is charge, he must be subjected to fair trial and accorded respect, Justice Adah said and added that implication of a trial tainted with bias on the part of the judge, is that the product of such trial cannot stand.”

The Court of Appeal, therefore, nullified the proceedings leading to the judgment accordingly and voided the judgment.

It also ordered a return of the case to the Federal High Court for retrial.

Reacting, Metuh’s lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) assured that the legal team will activate the relevant administrative mechanism to ensure that Metuh will be released from prison immediately.

He, meanwhile, expressed disappointment that the court ordered a retrial instead of outrightly freeing Metuh, who noted, has spent about 10 months in prison over a faulty trial.

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