Counsel to the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, who is facing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja over alleged N400 million fraud, could not open their defence yesterday as scheduled because of their plan to make a no-case submission.
Following the close of prosecution by the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on February 9 after the 8th witness had testified, opening of defence was expected to begin yesterday.
But Metuh’s lead counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), had told the court of his intention to file a no-case submission as, according him, they were yet to establish the ingredients of the offences charged, therefore there was no basis for Metuh to enter his defence.
His intention attracted no objection from the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, who stressed that the defendant retained the right to file for such a privilege.
In his ruling, Justice Okon Abang stated that having carefully considered the submission, it was his view that Ikpeazu was in control of his brief, and as such was at liberty to take any decision he may consider proper for the defence. “He is at liberty to argue the No-case application”, Justice Abang noted. He however insisted that the application must be filed and served instantly that yesterday.
The judge also ordered that consequent upon service, the prosecution counsel has only three days to respond. Thereafter, the defence counsel has 24 hours to file a reply on point of law, if any, while they return to court next week Thursday for adoption.
Ikpeazu also asked that the bail condition granted his client be sustained. His request was expressly granted by Justice Abang.
Earlier, Prosecution counsel, Tahir, had brought an amended charge before the court. Although the details of the charge were not read, he described it as “a harmless and innocuous one, merely to dot the ‘Is’ and cross the ‘Ts’.” According to Tahir, the amendment was pertinent to enable him conform to the necessary elements of the offence as stipulated under the law under which the accused persons were being charged
Thereafter, the seven-count charge against the first defendant, Metuh, was read out to him, and again, he pleaded not guilty to all.
Speaking shortly after adjournment, Tahir stressed that though the No-case submission could be a ploy to delay trial, it was legal.
He said: “They have not made the no-case submission. They only indicated that they would like to make a no-case submission. In the criminal charge process, those of us in the prosecution know that it is a stop gap.
In his reaction, Ikpeazu said: “We have reviewed the evidence made by the prosecution so far and we are of the view that we have not established the ingredients of the offences charged and it is the defendant’s prerogative to move the court to hold that there is no basis for the defendant to enter his defence.”