A lawyer representing Olisa Metuh, the spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has written to the Chief Judge of Federal High Court demanding the replacement of Okon Abang as the trial judge in the corruption case against Mr. Metuh.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accuses Mr. Metuh of illicitly receiving N400 million meant for the purchase of arms for the fight against Boko Haram.
The letter by Etiaba Etiaba, made public Thursday by the judge as the case resumed, introduced a new twist in the trial.
Justice Abang asked prosecution and defence lawyers whether they were aware of the letter sent to the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta.
“Are you aware that after eight witnesses were called by the prosecution, and the court gave its ruling on an application of no case submission by the defence, that Mr. Emeka Etiaba wrote the registrar to the Chief Justice of the Court, asking that this case be transferred to another judge?” he asked.
According to the judge, the reason alluded by Mr. Etiaba for the request of transfer of the case was that the judge had given certain interlocutory judgements in favour of the prosecution, and that he (Mr. Abang) was Mr. Metuh’s former classmate.
The letter also alleged that the court had refused to give the defence recordings of the previous ruling.
“I am not aware that the first defendant was my classmate, he said he is my classmate,” said Justice Abang on Thursday.
The prosecution said he was not aware of the letter, and one of Mr. Metuh’s counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe, said “any letter written by a member of the defence is a letter by the defence team”.
Pressed by the judge for a definite answer, Mr. Adedipe said he had learnt in his long career as a lawyer to thread carefully.
Justice Abang denied he had been biased against the defence, saying the court had approved three adjournments at the request of the defence.
He also denied the claim that Mr. Metuh was denied copies of the court’s ruling.
“The secretary will type and the court will proofread about four times,” said Justice Abang, explaining why the copies of the ruling was not ready before Thursday for both parties.
Mr. Abang said despite the “unprofessional” conduct of the Mr. Etiaba, he would abide by the directives from the National Judicial Council which directs judges in such circumstances to continue to handle the case till the Chief Judge decides on the application for an objection.
He therefore adjourned the case till March 23, 2016.