The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Wednesday, nullified the Federal High Court judgement that convicted and sentenced a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, to seven years imprisonment for money laundering.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, held that the judgement trial Justice Okon Abang delivered against Metuh on February 25, was tainted with bias.
The appellate court held that the trial Judge made disparaging remarks in the judgement that betrayed his premeditated mindset against the Defendant whom he accused of writing various petitions against him.
In its lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Stephen Adah, the appellate court said it was convinced that Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Limited, which was the 2nd Defendant, were denied fair hearing by the trial court.
It held that allowing the trial court’s verdict against the Defendants to stand “will set a dangerous precedent”, stressing that in criminal cases, “justice must not only be done but should manifestly be seen to have been done.
“In the conduct of the criminal proceeding, the trial Judge must be seen to be fair to both sides. Failure to do so will lead to the nullification of the entire proceedings,” Justice Adah added.
The appellate court held that the law made it mandatory that anyone accused of an offence must be accorded a fair trial.
“Judgement of the lower court cannot stand because of the taint of bias and it is accordingly annulled”, the appellate court held.
It voided the conviction and sentence that was handed to Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Limited, and ordered that the case file should be remitted back to the Chief Judge of the high court to be reassigned to another judge for a re-trial.
Aside from upholding two appeals that were brought before it by Metuh and his firm, the appellate court also upheld a third appeal that was filed by the erstwhile National Security Adviser, NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki, retd.
It held that trial Justice Abang acted wrongly when he made damaging remarks about Dasuki in the judgement, even though he was not a Defendant in the charge.
The appellate court noted that Dasuki was merely summoned to testify as a witness in the matter.
It accordingly set-aside every aspect of the judgement where Dasuki’s name was negatively mentioned by the trial Judge.