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PDP kicks as Olisa Metuh appears for trial in handcuff

National Publicity Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, appearing for his trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja... on Tuesday

The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, was driven off in a prison pick-up from the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja, shortly after he was granted bail in the sum of N400m by the court on Tuesday.

Metuh, who was produced in court in handcuffs for the bail hearing, is, however, to remain in Kuje Prison, Abuja, till he perfects his bail conditions.

After the court delivered its ruling on his bail application on Tuesday, prison officials led him to a waiting green pick-up and locked him up at the rear cabin of the vehicle.

The vehicle, with number plate PS 682 AA, and with the inscription, Kuje Prison, FCT Command, Abuja, was driven off from the court premises at 4.10pm.

Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling shortly after Metuh’s bail application was argued on Tuesday, admitted the PDP spokesperson to bail in the sum of N400m with two sureties in the sum of N200m each.

The judge also ordered that the two sureties must own property in Maitama, Abuja, directing the sureties to deposit their passport photographs with the court registrar.

The judge also ruled that the sureties must produce the Certificates of Occupancy of the property, which must be verified by the Chief Registrar of the court and confirmed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The judge, who also ordered that Metuh must deposit his travelling documents with the court pending the period of his trial, also ordered the EFCC to verify the residences of the sureties, who must be resident in Abuja.

But the arraignment of Metuh in handcuffs on Tuesday drew severe criticism from the opposition PDP, which alleged that the manner of the suspect’s arraignment was one of the moves of the ruling All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government to subjugate the opposition party.
National Publicity Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, appearing for his trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja... on Tuesday

The PDP described Metuh’s arraignment in handcuffs as a “brazen display of authoritarianism” by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.

It said the development betrayed an extra-judicial, top political witch-hunt policy of

the APC, which it said was carefully designed to humiliate, embarrass and portray the PDP leaders as common criminals and set the stage to cow and decimate the opposition and perceived foes of the government.

The National Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo, stated this in a statement in Abuja.

Oladipo added, “The question remains, if not to mortify, dehumanise and break Metuh, who has been very vocal against the APC administration, and of course, to send a signal to others critical of the government, what else would have informed the decision to produce him in court in handcuffs, even when his case does not border on security threat?

“Is this an attempt to sway the court and ambush the judicial process against our National Publicity Secretary, all because of his stance against observed ineptitude and dictatorial tendencies of this administration?

“The PDP invites all Nigerians and the international community to note the emerging barefaced abuse of state power and violation of constitutional provisions regarding the arrest, detention and eventual arraignment of our spokesperson.”

Oladipo noted that Nigerians should, by now, be extremely scared that the country was fast drifting into what he called a police state, where being in opposition or holding views divergent to that of the government, makes one a criminal and an enemy of the state.

He alleged that for now, the target of the ongoing “lopsided war against corruption is the PDP and its leaders” while all the APC members, including those with allegedly known corruption issues, had been immune from investigation, arrest and prosecution.

The secretary added that, more worrisome was the fact that institutions of government, especially security and corrective agencies, had now fallen victims to dictatorial abuses.

He said, “Under the PDP administration, some Nigerians, including APC leader and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, were tried but never humiliated; now we see security operatives under this regime being used to crush and humiliate the opposition.”

But the Nigeria Prisons Service said the handcuffing of Metuh was at the discretion of the prison officer, who supervised his court appearance.

The NPS spokesman, Francis Enobore, said the officer in charge of the escort that took Metuh to court was at liberty to determine if the inmate should be handcuffed based on security situation, the environment and intelligence report made available to him.

Enobore, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, stated that Metuh was not maltreated in any way, stressing that handcuffing an inmate was a standard procedure, which the prison warden could employ based on the situation at hand.

He said, “Handcuffing an inmate is at the discretion of the officer in-charge, depending on the security situation, the environment and intelligence report available to the officer. Sometimes they look at the atmosphere and take the necessary decision.

“If you suspect that the atmosphere, security-wise, may not be conducive to the inmates in your custody, you can use handcuffs; to avoid a situation where you have to start telling stories, you use your discretion to study the environment and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the inmates in your custody.

“Remember that we not only try to secure the inmate from escaping, we equally provide protection for the inmate. The officer in-charge must ensure that the life of the inmate is not jeopardised. It is the officer in-charge of the escort that studies the security environment and takes the decision to use handcuffs.”

Asked if there was intelligence that Metuh might escape or was in danger of being harmed, Enobore said he did not know because he was not at the scene.

He dismissed suggestions that the PDP spokesman was handcuffed to please the Presidency, saying there was no political consideration in the treatment of inmates by the prisons service.

Justice Abang had, on January 15, ordered the accused person to be remanded in Kuje Prison shortly after his arraignment on seven counts of money laundering preferred against him by the EFCC.

The EFCC alleged in the charges that Metuh, who was arraigned along with a firm, Destra Investments Ltd, received N400m, part of the money meant for the procurement of arms, from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014.

The EFCC alleged in the case, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/05/2016, that Metuh and Destra, through their account with Diamond Bank Plc, collected the sum of N400m from the NSA office on November 22, 2015, for PDP’s campaign activities.

The prosecution also alleged that the N400m was “part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity” of the immediate past NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).

It alleged that Metuh and Destra transferred the sum of N21.8m to Anenih and they (Metuh and Destra) thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

The judge ordered on Tuesday that Metuh should not be released from custody until he met the bail conditions.

But in granting him bail on Tuesday, the judge dismissed EFCC’s objection to the application, ruling that the allegation that Metuh destroyed his statement and attempted to influence potential witnesses while in the custody of the anti-graft agency, was not substantiated.

Justice Abang added, “The truth of this allegation has not been established. The prosecution said that he, the first defendant, if granted bail, will try to influence potential witnesses.

“In my humble view, this is speculative. The court of law cannot act on speculation.

“The alleged conduct of the first defendant while in custody of the EFCC cannot be used as a factor or taken into consideration in refusing the bail to the first defendant.”

He said the offences that Metuh was accused of were bailable and that the accused still enjoyed constitutional right to being presumed innocent until proved guilty.

Metuh was arrested by the EFCC on January 5 and remained in the custody of the anti-graft agency till when he was arraigned on January 15.

The judge however dismissed the second prayer contained in Metuh’s bail application seeking an order restraining the EFCC from re-arresting him after being granted bail.

Metuh’s separate fundamental human rights enforcement suit is scheduled to come up for hearing before Justice Abang on Wednesday (today).