By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja to speedily determine the trial of former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited.
Metuh and his firm are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged money laundering charges.
The apex court gave the order on Friday while delivering judgement on an appeal filed by Destra Investments Limited, which is the 2nd defendant in the suit.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Kumai Bamayang Akaahs, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
In a unanimous verdict of its five-member panel, the apex court described the appeal as frivolous and unmeritorious.
Justice Akaahs, lampooned the company’s counsel, Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), for filing such a “frivolous” appeal to the level of the highest court in the land, in spite the “clear provisions of the law supporting the decision of the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on the issue.”
He held that the decision of Justice Abang, which was challenged by Destra, was right, as it was in tandem with the provisions of Section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
The law stipulates that after taking plea, a defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge at any time before judgment “provided that such objection can only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling delivered on it at the time of delivery of judgment”.
“I find that there is no merit in the appeal; it is a storm in a teacup,” Justice Akaahs declared.
The apex court Judge noted with surprise that a lawyer of Onwugbufor’s calibre ordinarily should help in “ensuring orderly development of the society through strict adherence to the rule of law,” adding that as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Onwugbufor should to only help his client to clear its name and not to mount “roadblocks to frustrate justice from running its course.
“Whether a person or company or person has been accused of an infraction of the law, the duty that a senior counsel owes by the privileges bestowed on him is to help the accused person or company clear their name through due legal process and not to create the impression that his duty is to erect roadblocks to frustrate justice from running its course.
“The case is remitted to the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for speedy conclusion,”Justice Akaahs held.
In a similar vein, Justice Ejembi Eko, while making his contribution on the suit, described Onwugbufor’s appeal as “frivolous, vexatious and unbecoming of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
Justice Eko held that the appeal was meant to frustrate the provisions of Section 36(1) of the Constitution, which provides for a speedy trial, and Section 396(2) of the ACJA, and warned lawyers to desist from such act henceforth.