From Taiwo Amodu, Abuja
Barely 24 hours after Olisa Metuh lost his bid at the Abuja division of the Appeal Court to halt his ongoing trial at the Federal High Court, his family said the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is prepared and willing to refund the money allegedly paid into his bank account by the Office of the Security Adviser (ONSA).
This disclosure was made yesterday in a statement signed by Chief Gilbert Metuh on behalf of the family.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, on charges including fraudulent collection of N400 million from the ONSA in November 2014 and using same for PDP’s presidential campaign. He pleaded not guilty.
While claiming that their son is innocent of the charges, the family said the decision to make the refund was informed by the precarious state of health of the erstwhile PDP spokesman.
The family said several overtures made by Metuh to refund the money since his arrest were rebuffed by EFCC.
The family said: “It is instructive that out of over 300 names listed as having received money from the ONSA, all those who offered to refund money were not arraigned in court. Our son is the only one whose offer to refund money was rejected and has been arraigned in court and his case given accelerated hearing. On each trial date the hostility in the courtroom is palpable.
“As we speak, the offer to refund the money to the Federal Government is still open and the government is yet to accept the offer. It is therefore clear to us that the intention is not the recovery of funds but a clear persecution of our son.”
The family which described Metuh’s trial as political persecution expressed consternation over the rejection of his prayer to be allowed to travel abroad to attend to his failing health. They further argued that certain individuals facing similar trial were allowed to travel abroad on health grounds.”
“Our son was diagnosed with a spinal cord problem in 2004. He has consistently managed it over this period. However, due to the treatments he received while in custody, the situation got aggravated. In the course of his trial, the situation deteriorated, especially after he fell at a meeting in the party office for which he was rushed to the National Hospital and was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit. Notwithstanding the grave medical condition, he still kept his court date the very next morning in spite of medical advice by the doctors.
“On another such occasion, he vomited in court and had to be rushed back to the hospital where he is lying critically ill.
“Upon doctors’ recommendation, our son made application to be granted leave and his international passport released for him to travel to a recommended neurological hospital in London for immediate, critical delicate corrective surgery to save him from imminent irreversible paralysis.
“We are, therefore, shocked that with all the information available to the court regarding his grave medical condition and the critical need for him to have this corrective surgery, the Federal High Court, Abuja, refused his application. It is also instructive to note that the Federal High Court, Abuja, on the same day granted leave to someone facing similar trial to go abroad for one month for prayers while our ailing son is not allowed to travel for urgent medical attention. We are also aware that a few others facing similar trials, within the same federal high court jurisdiction, have been granted leave to travel for medical treatment and their passports released to them by the same court where they were granted bail.
“It is absurd that the main reason given by the court for refusing the application is that there are several teaching hospitals in Nigeria that can handle such critical spinal problems, especially as this dramatic claim by the trial Judge has no medical basis whatsoever.
“This is clearly one of the tactics being used by the court in an attempt to whip up public sentiments against our son in this courtroom media trial more so when it is judicial notice that even public officers are allowed to travel abroad on ordinary medical check-up and at public expense.
“Our request is on the basis of a life-threatening ailment and will be undertaken with our own private resources.
“Sadly, as we speak, our son is lying on admission at the National Hospital where his spinal ailment is fast deteriorating and doctors fearing the worse for his life. He currently relies on palliatives being given to him at the National Hospital Abuja waiting for the opportunity of a corrective surgery.
“The essence of a criminal trial is to achieve justice and no justice can be achieved if someone dies in the process. We feel more convinced that this is a political vendetta considering the fact of his efforts to pay back the money if it came from government coffers not minding that the money has been expended as directed by the former President.”