It was a war of words on Monday as lawyers in the ongoing trial of the former Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, struggled to canvass their arguments in court.
Mr Metuh is facing trial on alleged diversion of N400 million received from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The former PDP spokesperson is being tried along with his company, Dextra Investment Limited.
The trial had been adjourned to October, for old and new parties including Channels Television who were accused by the judge of making improper coverage of the trial.
While the hearing was going on, a defence lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, informed the court about the absence of a fellow defence lawyer, Tochukwu Onwubufor.
According to Mr Etiaba, Mr Onwubufor had travelled and was therefore not going to be able to attend Monday’s court hearing.
Mr Etiaba also announced that his fellow senior member of the inner bar had left some documents with him (Etiaba), suggesting a request to hold brief for Mr Onwuufor, pending his return from the trip.
After making his explanations, the prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, addressed the court in reaction to Mr Etiaba’s explanation on the absence of Mr Onwubufor.
According to Mr Tahir, Mr Etiaba’s claim on the absence of Mr Onwubufor amounted to “an appalling and vexatious request.”
Mr Tahir accused Mr Onwubufor of planning to force the court to sit at his (Onwubufor’s) convenience alone and not at the discretion of the court.
He told the court that the “purported excuse of Mr Onwuufor’s absence” should not be considered a reason for any adjournment, suggesting that Mr Etiaba was requesting for an adjournment.
Subsequently, in a reaction to Mr Tahir’s’s submission, Mr Etiaba expressed what he described as a longstanding concern about the prosecution’s ‘choice of language’ in court.
“I am worried about the council’s uncontrolled use of words. Council referred to the application as appalling and vexatious. And further submitted that it was frivolous.
“He continued and used the word “so called,” said Mr Etiaba who added that Mr Tahir made further derogatory descriptions about Mr Onwubufor’s reported absence.
“The reason why we met this profession is that we refer it as a learned profession, where we give each other the benefit of the doubt.
“I have always advised my colleague Tahir to mind his choice of words and the worst just happened this morning. And there is life beyond this trial: this case,” said Mr Etiaba who added that; the defence team has not made any application for adjournment.
After making their submissions, the judge, Okon Abang ruled that the matter would continue in Mr Onwubufor’s absence on Tuesday.
Also at the opening of session, a new lawyer representing Channels Television, Jiti Ogunye, informed the court about a request by his client to appeal a previous directive for the TV station to produce copies of an edition of its programme, Sunrise Daily, in court.
Mr Ogunye, who was standing in for another lawyer, also asked that issues relating to his client in the substantive matter, be suspended pending the determination of the hearing at the appeal court.
In reaction to Mr Ogunye’s application, Mr Tahir said his client has not been served. He argued that Channels Television chose to consider the office of the Attorney General as the prosecution in its application, while the case was brought to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
“From all the processes, it is clear that the office of the AGF is not directly involved in this application. I’m not aware that the court made an order substituting the EFCC with the AGF.
“In a nutshell, we have not been served,” Mr Tahir said.
“They should regularise their processes and have them served,” Mr Tahir said. He described Mr Ogunye’s application as “dead on arrival”.
However, in reaction, Mr Ogunye accused the prosecution of “overrating the issue and wasting the precious time of the court”.
“Any serious minded counsel, must know that whatever interest we have is subordinated by the duty of the court to grant justice. The time of the court should not be unnecessarily wasted.”
Mr Ogunye also explained that his client has no reason to prefer the AGF to the EFCC.