The Federal High Court judgment that convicted and sentenced a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, to seven years imprisonment for money laundering has been nullified by the Court of Appeal.
A three-man panel led by Justice Stephen Adah in a unanimous judgment delivered on Wednesday held that the proceedings of the Federal High Court leading to the conviction of Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited, were tainted with bias, and therefore, must not be allowed to stand.
He directed that the case file be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge other than Justice Abang.
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Justice Abang had in his judgment delivered on February 25, 2020, sentenced Metuh to seven years’ imprisonment for fraudulently receiving N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser then being headed by Col Sambo Dasuki.
Aggrieved by the court’s decision, Metuh through his counsel filed an appeal in March 2020.
As part of the 10 issues raised by the appellant for determination by the appellate court, Metuh argued that he was not given a fair trial.
He submitted that the trial judge was biased, considering some of the remarks made during the trial.
Delivering judgment on Wednesday, a three-man panel of justice agreed that the trial judge showed influence of bias against the appellant .
Stephen Adah who read the court’s decision, said: “The narrative of the trial judge suggest someone who didn’t enjoy trying the appellant and counsel because he said they were picking on him.
“He was struggling with the case and even wished that he should be recused out of the case. The influence from this narrative is indisputably to say the least that a trial judge was angered only in his mind that he was wrongly influenced and showed bias against the appellant in this case as this is what manifests from all the outburst, he has infused in his judgment.
“Learned trial judge showed in his comments, the influence of an abnormal desire all inclination to pursue a predetermined line of action against the appellant.
“This no doubt is an influence of bias against the appellant. There is no way the learned trial judge can be seen to be detached from the malice against the appellant in the case as alleged.
“The duty of a trial judge is to be completely neutral in the case before him. A judge must not only be impartial; he must be seen to be impartial to both sides.
“His duty is to sit and determine the issues raised by parties and to conduct an examination into the parties. He is not an umpire just yet. His job is to find out the truth and do justice according to law.
“Appellants has been able to convince us in this court from the records shown and from all the utterances of the judge that there is likelihood of bias signifying that he was no freeman while the trial was going on.
“If this is allowed, it will set a dangerous president and that is never allowed by our constitution. Trial that was conducted in a hostile atmosphere without any regard to the constitutional right of the person accused can never be upheld.
“The learned trial judge unfortunately has shown the whole world that much was into that judgment than what was put in evidence before the judge.
“It was in this respect that we cannot ignore it. This court in its duty, set that decision aside. Judgment of the lower court delivered on 25th of February 2020 cannot stand because of the evidence of bias. It is accordingly annulled.”