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Arrest, detention, indictment of Olisa Metuh epitomized dangers & fears of abusive exploitation of mass euphoria in pursuit of narrow political objective.

Our opening question should be: What has gone wrong with President Buhari’s much-touted war against corruption? And the answer is: everything, everything, has gone wrong with this war. 

The government has lost every battle in the war. 

Buhari’s many anti-corruption pronouncements through his campaign and up to the point he assumed office have turned into a mere wishful thinking. 

The public sentiments that greeted those pronouncements have turned into mass doubt and hushed skepticism across the country. 

Indeed, every inch of the way, this government shows that it cannot even articulate any war plan, strategy or tactic, against corruption, how much less wage any successful war. 

The EFCC is headed by a man with questions unanswered. The Secretary to Government is a man tainted by corruption scandals. 

Is it that the objectives of the war has changed or is it that the people are just getting to know the true intent of the Administration to wage only a mock war?

Why use Olisa Metuh’s case as a test? The arrest, detention and indictment of Metuh epitomized the dangers and fears about abusive exploitation of mass euphoria in pursuit of a narrow political objective. 

Buhari’s government has no real war against corruption. That much is clear. 

What has been going on is merely dubious gestures and dramatic posturing by a weak political party that managed to snatch electoral victory. 

And these are weapons to suppress and scatter a defeated party of its opponents. 

Metuh could be an ideal target, not because he was the most powerful figure in his party, but because overtime, he was viewed as pain in the neck of this ruling party, when it was the opposition.

As the spokesperson for his party for at least 16 years, Metuh’s words were sharp in their bite, making his office a devastating weapon system with which PDP was able to hold the opposition at bay for so long. 

Metuh’s many wars of words constantly gutted and severely wounded the party of this President, as far as verbal combat remains an intrinsic part of competitive politics. 

It is not all that surprising therefore that at the end of it all, it is the sharp words exchanged in politics that are remembered longer than other wounds.

Also, after People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost the election, it was obvious the party was not used to losing and there appeared to be no clear plan among its leaders on how to handle their new status as the opposition. 

Hence, the PDP chieftains scattered into a chilling quietude, coupled with so much infighting and desperate efforts by some to try to join the ruling party, rather than be in the opposition. 

Again, at such critical moment, Metuh was among the very few figures in PDP to try to regroup and raise a voice as the new opposition. 

By that very attempt, Metuh unknowingly turned himself into a bull’s eye in a targeting range in the Nigeria’s nasty politics of vengeance.

If not stopped, Metuh might continue to harass the ruling party, especially if it fails to keep any of the promises it made to the people during the campaign. 

So, Metuh had to be contained as part of this government’s central plan to maintain power. It is absolutely all politics.

It is important to look at all the people arrested in the spate of the euphoria about the war on corruption and what has happened in each of those cases, in order to understand fully the trajectory of this article.

In analyzing the Metuh case, the mother crime would be the 2 billion-dollar fraud allegedly committed by Col. Sambo Dasuki. Metuh allegedly received 400 million from Dasuki. From the legal formulation of the crimes with which Metuh was charged, it is the position of the Government, represented by the omniscient EFCC, that Dasuki committed at least one crime in respect of the 2 billion dollars. 

In other words, the Government alleged that Metuh knowingly received funds that were proceeds of Dasuki’s crime.

Therefore, there will be three critical elements to the case against Metuh. First, you need to establish that Dasuki committed a crime. 

This requires the trial and conviction of Dasuki for that crime, or at least a guilty plea by Dasuki that he actually committed that crime. None of this has happened. 

In fact, Dasuki has not even been charged with that crime. He is in detention for another alleged crime altogether. 

Other elements to the alleged crime of Metuh are that he received funds from Dasuki and that he knowingly did so. 

But these other elements are not ripe for consideration until we deal conclusively with the alleged crime of Dasuki; that is until there is a conviction of Dasuki of any crime in relation to funds, from which he paid money to Metuh. 

Without that, no one can validly say that any funds received by anybody are proceeds of any crime – what crime? 

Our opening question should be: What has gone wrong with President Buhari’s much-touted war against corruption? And the answer is: everything, everything, has gone wrong with this war. 

The government has lost every battle in the war. 

Buhari’s many anti-corruption pronouncements through his campaign and up to the point he assumed office have turned into a mere wishful thinking. 

The public sentiments that greeted those pronouncements have turned into mass doubt and hushed skepticism across the country. 

Indeed, every inch of the way, this government shows that it cannot even articulate any war plan, strategy or tactic, against corruption, how much less wage any successful war. 

The EFCC is headed by a man with questions unanswered. The Secretary to Government is a man tainted by corruption scandals. 

Is it that the objectives of the war has changed or is it that the people are just getting to know the true intent of the Administration to wage only a mock war?

Why use Olisa Metuh’s case as a test? The arrest, detention and indictment of Metuh epitomized the dangers and fears about abusive exploitation of mass euphoria in pursuit of a narrow political objective. 

Buhari’s government has no real war against corruption. That much is clear. 

What has been going on is merely dubious gestures and dramatic posturing by a weak political party that managed to snatch electoral victory. 

And these are weapons to suppress and scatter a defeated party of its opponents. 

Metuh could be an ideal target, not because he was the most powerful figure in his party, but because overtime, he was viewed as pain in the neck of this ruling party, when it was the opposition.

As the spokesperson for his party for at least 16 years, Metuh’s words were sharp in their bite, making his office a devastating weapon system with which PDP was able to hold the opposition at bay for so long. 

Metuh’s many wars of words constantly gutted and severely wounded the party of this President, as far as verbal combat remains an intrinsic part of competitive politics. 

It is not all that surprising therefore that at the end of it all, it is the sharp words exchanged in politics that are remembered longer than other wounds.

Also, after People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost the election, it was obvious the party was not used to losing and there appeared to be no clear plan among its leaders on how to handle their new status as the opposition. 

Hence, the PDP chieftains scattered into a chilling quietude, coupled with so much infighting and desperate efforts by some to try to join the ruling party, rather than be in the opposition. 

Again, at such critical moment, Metuh was among the very few figures in PDP to try to regroup and raise a voice as the new opposition. 

By that very attempt, Metuh unknowingly turned himself into a bull’s eye in a targeting range in the Nigeria’s nasty politics of vengeance.

If not stopped, Metuh might continue to harass the ruling party, especially if it fails to keep any of the promises it made to the people during the campaign. 

So, Metuh had to be contained as part of this government’s central plan to maintain power. It is absolutely all politics.

It is important to look at all the people arrested in the spate of the euphoria about the war on corruption and what has happened in each of those cases, in order to understand fully the trajectory of this article.

In analyzing the Metuh case, the mother crime would be the 2 billion-dollar fraud allegedly committed by Col. Sambo Dasuki. Metuh allegedly received 400 million from Dasuki. From the legal formulation of the crimes with which Metuh was charged, it is the position of the Government, represented by the omniscient EFCC, that Dasuki committed at least one crime in respect of the 2 billion dollars. 

In other words, the Government alleged that Metuh knowingly received funds that were proceeds of Dasuki’s crime.

Therefore, there will be three critical elements to the case against Metuh. First, you need to establish that Dasuki committed a crime. 

This requires the trial and conviction of Dasuki for that crime, or at least a guilty plea by Dasuki that he actually committed that crime. None of this has happened. 

In fact, Dasuki has not even been charged with that crime. He is in detention for another alleged crime altogether. 

Other elements to the alleged crime of Metuh are that he received funds from Dasuki and that he knowingly did so. 

But these other elements are not ripe for consideration until we deal conclusively with the alleged crime of Dasuki; that is until there is a conviction of Dasuki of any crime in relation to funds, from which he paid money to Metuh. 

Without that, no one can validly say that any funds received by anybody are proceeds of any crime – what crime? 

Completion

Remember that neither the Presidency nor the EFCC has the power to unilaterally declare any act a crime or anybody a criminal.

It is also important to note that for a guilty plea to be acceptable, it must come from a person who makes such plea voluntarily. 

Also, a criminal conviction will be valid only if it was obtained through court trial that was free and fair. 

It is now nearly impossible for Nigerian Government to hold a free and fair trial against Dasuki, having abused Dasuki’s rights to such a high degree that it earned the government the sanctions and condemnation of a regional court, the ECOWAS Human Rights Court.

One does not need to be a lawyer to understand that you cannot find Metuh guilty without first convicting Dasuki. 

Charging and trying Metuh ahead of Dasuki is a double-layered absurdity in law. 

It creates the possibility that you could convict Metuh of receiving the proceeds of a crime committed by Dasuki, but subsequently fail to convict Dasuki of the mother crime. 

This now seems to be the game of the Government – to use Dasuki putative crimes as a foundation to incriminate Metuh, but later turn around and reach a deal with Dasuki, which will avoid the question – what trial or legal procedure established the mother offense? 

Flowing from this basic logic is the conclusion that Metuh is being tried for an act that has not been determined to be a crime. 

Only a desperate desire to nail Metuh by all means unlawful can justify the aggressive prosecution of Metuh ahead of Dasuki.

To understand such strange prosecution, one needs to look further at two critical issues. First is the manner of arrest and detention of Metuh. 

The second is the attitude and pronouncements so far of the presiding judge. The Judge’s body language is all totally non-judicious and seems to aim at a predetermined outcome regardless of evidence or rule or law.

Several of the EFCC rules of engagement regarding arrest and detention of suspects, which were already faulted for falling far short of international and regional standards, were further compromised in the case of Metuh. 

Metuh was invited by the EFCC for a chat. He came on his own promptly and without any resistance. He was arrested on the spot. 

When he heard that he was alleged to have accepted 400 million naira from Dasuki, he offered to give that amount to the EFCC to be held as a bond for his freedom pending EFCC investigation into the alleged offence. 

That was the best Metuh could do. That was harsher than the bail terms any court could impose on him. 

Surprisingly, an EFCC with a mind already fixed, demanded that Metuh should pay 1.4 billion for his freedom, which he ought to have as a constitutional right. 

This was an impossible figure that had no basis on anything. So, Metuh was detained against every legitimate or lawful interest, except the vindictive desires of the ruling party.

Metuh’s administrative detention was prolonged in clear violation of the constitutional language and standards.

And when charged to court, the Government further showed extraordinary hatred and spite for Metuh by bending all existing rules on how to handle a person accused of a crime. 

It is not a regular practice for the prison authority to handcuff a suspect while taking him to court. 

But Metuh was handcuffed all the way from Kuje Prisons to Court, nearly an hour drive on mostly rough road, on several occasions. 

Also, they made sure they etched on the psyche of the people, an image of Metuh in handcuffs. All these were calculated to defeat the presumption of innocence and to manufacture a guilty man at all costs.

This unprecedented pattern of abuse became even more pronounced as Metuh faces the judge in court. 

The Government chose for Metuh a judge that has faced constant probe by the Government for judicial misconduct bothering on corruption. 

Justice Abang is a judge who holds his office at the continuing mercy of the Government, particularly the EFCC. 

His independence as a judicial officer is one thing that never existed. He is a judge that needs to trade favors with the Government. And Metuh is definitely the best article of trade in his tray. 

Justice Abang’s own pronouncements are there to confirm this assessment of his grossly biased position.

In his rulings, he ignores that inevitable logical link between the crime alleged against Metuh and those speculated against Dasuki. 

The judge fails to reflect that at the very best, Metuh’s offence is a derivative offense, which can only emanate from the Dasuki offense. He denied Metuh’s no-case submission. 

He is denying Metuh an opportunity to call Dasuki as a witness. He fails to stay the trial to allow for the Supreme Court to hear Metuh’s appeal on a day already scheduled by the Supreme Court. 

He further refused to recuse himself from the case and constantly threatens Metuh and his lawyers with jail time for contempt of his court each time they raise even the most legitimate objection.

Metuh’s case is thus a blatant and shameless political persecution and a wholesale oppression of the voice of opposition in Nigerian politics. 

There is no link between that case and any war against corruption. One can reach this conclusion even without referring to the extraordinary corruption that has occurred under this Government. 

The people can only be deceived for a short while. In the end, the monumental deception going on in these cases will come to full light.

Nigerians today are faced with a judiciary that is greatly marginalized and emasculated. Not even during the hollowing days of military dictatorship did we have judges so much in fear of what could happen if they refused to tow the line prescribed by the Executive. 

It is unfortunate for Metuh that this is the time in which his ordeal is set. He is a victim at the worst time possible.

By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, Founder, The Due Process Advocates (DPA), President, ECULAW Group.

 

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