Justice Okon Abang, the Federal High Court Judge who handed over a 7 year jail sentence to Olisa Metuh in the N400m fraud case against him, was his course mate at the Nigerian Law School.
Though the former PDP National Secretary accused his former course mate at the Nigerian Law School of being antagonistic to him and also lost a bid to get the case reassigned to another judge, Justice Okon Abang insisted that he did what was best for Metuh and also needed to act without fear or favour.
Before ruling on the case, the Federal High Court Judge recounted how Metuh’s lawyers ”humiliated the court” and even took the matter to international press. Abang also disclosed that God did not answer his prayer for the case to be reassigned to another judge.
He said on Tuesday February 25;
“I cannot in this forum state all the negative things I passed through in this matter. God has been so faithful to me in this matter. May His name be praised.
“The convict and his counsel, especially Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and Ikpeazu (SAN), used every opportunity open to them to humiliate the court, writing hopeless, reckless and frivolous petitions against the court.
“They even took the matter to the international press. The day the first convict fell down, it was aired on CNN just to have unmerited sympathy, portraying the court in bad light.
“It was only God that used my immediate family to sustain me throughout the four years of hostility coming from the team of lawyers.
“It was only a few weeks to the end of the proceedings that the convict and his team of lawyers began to defend him in court. Before then, they had thoroughly humiliated me just because I discharged my function without fear or favour.
“I had nobody to speak for me except God that sustained me throughout this period of hostility meted to me by the first convict.
“Even during this period, I prayed that my employer should withdraw the file from me but God did not answer my prayers. I did not assign this case to this court, I did not in any way, direct the first convict to dissipate public funds.
“When the EFCC applied to court to revoke the bail of the convict because he wasn’t in court, I had sympathy for him and did not revoke his bail. I gave him an opportunity to be in court and adjourned the matter to a later date.
“The next appearance, the convict was in a stretcher motionless, just to portray the court as being heartless and inhuman because I did not release his international passport for him to travel out of the country –a decision that has been affirmed on appeal.
“He came in a stretcher without any medical personnel except the people that accompanied him to court. He asked for four weeks adjournment and I gave him six weeks. Thereafter, he appealed. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal and held that the judge that gave him six weeks adjournment when he asked for four weeks, cannot be biased against him.
“On February 23, 2017, one of the senior counsels that appeared for the convict, openly accused the court of bias and applied that the court should recuse itself from the matter.
“And if one may ask the reason for the application, it was because I delivered a ruling against the first convict. The law is settled that a party or counsel cannot in the open court accuse the court of bias. That is contempt in the face of the court.
“I would have summarily dealt with the learned senior counsel, Ikpeazu, but having been trained to have the patience of the biblical Job, I developed thick skin over the contemptuous conduct of Dr. Ikpeazu and allowed him to go home, not out of fear or cowardice. The court had to show maturity and restraint at that trying period.
“I have forgiven the first convict and if there is anything within my powers to do, I will do. I have also forgiven Emeka Etiaba (SAN) that took this matter so personal against my person for doing nothing. I have forgiven Ikpeazu (SAN) too that maltreated me during this period of hostility.”
Recall that asides sentencing Olisa Metuh to 7 years in prison, Justice Okon Abang also ordered the convict to pay a fine of N375m to the Federal Government. Metuh’s firm, Destra Investments was ordered to pay N25m to the Federal Government.
The Federal High Court Judge also ordered the winding up Destra Investments, closure of its accounts in Diamond Bank and Asset Resource Management, and the forfeiture of the money in the accounts to the Federal Government.
In a way what Metuh’s conviction says is that Dasuki is guilty eventhough he has not been tried and convicted. What happens if Dasuki is later found not guilty? Metuh all along demonstrated lack of confidence in the Judge and I can see why. Justice Abang complained of Metuh and his team of lawyers publicising the case at his detriment but he just done the same by releasing this unprofessional statement.