Okon Abang, the judge who presided over the case of Olisa Metuh, says he was humiliated to the extent that he prayed that the case should be taken away from him but God did not answer the prayer.
Abang said this shortly before he sentenced the former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party to 39 years in prison for laundering public funds to sponsor campaign activities of his party.
Metuh had lost in his bid to make Abang recuse himself from the trial. He had said the judge who was his mate at the Nigerian Law School was hostile to him.
But at the court on Tuesday, Abang said he did his best for Metuh but he had to act without fear of favour.
“I cannot in this forum state all the negative things I passed through in this matter. God has been so faithful to me in this matter. May His name be praised,” Abang said.
“The convict and his counsel, especially Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and Ikpeazu (SAN), used every opportunity open to them to humiliate the court, writing hopeless, reckless and frivolous petitions against the court.”
“They even took the matter to the international press. The day the first convict fell down, it was aired on CNN just to have unmerited sympathy, portraying the court in bad light.
“It was only God that used my immediate family to sustain me throughout the four years of hostility coming from the team of lawyers.
“It was only a few weeks to the end of the proceedings that the convict and his team of lawyers began to defend him in court. Before then, they had thoroughly humiliated me just because I discharged my function without fear or favour.
“I had nobody to speak for me except God that sustained me throughout this period of hostility meted to me by the first convict.”
Like the biblical Jesus, Abang said he prayed that Metuh’s case should be taken away from him.
“Even during this period, I prayed that my employer should withdraw the file from me but God did not answer my prayers. I did not assign this case to this court, I did not in any way, direct the first convict to dissipate public funds,” he said.
“When the EFCC applied to court to revoke the bail of the convict because he wasn’t in court, I had sympathy for him and did not revoke his bail. I gave him an opportunity to be in court and adjourned the matter to a later date.
“The next appearance, the convict was in a stretcher motionless, just to portray the court as being heartless and inhuman because I did not release his international passport for him to travel out of the country –a decision that has been affirmed on appeal.
“He came in a stretcher without any medical personnel except the people that accompanied him to court. He asked for four weeks adjournment and I gave him six weeks. Thereafter, he appealed. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal and held that the judge that gave him six weeks adjournment when he asked for four weeks, cannot be biased against him.”
Abang added that on February 23, 2017, one of the senior counsels that appeared for the convict, openly accused the court of bias and applied that the court should recuse itself from the matter.
“And if one may ask the reason for the application, it was because I delivered a ruling against the first convict. The law is settled that a party or counsel cannot in the open court accuse the court of bias. That is contempt in the face of the court,” he said.
“I would have summarily dealt with the learned senior counsel, Ikpeazu, but having been trained to have the patience of the biblical Job, I developed thick skin over the contemptuous conduct of Dr. Ikpeazu and allowed him to go home, not out of fear or cowardice. The court had to show maturity and restraint at that trying period.
“I have forgiven the first convict and if there is anything within my powers to do, I will do. I have also forgiven Emeka Etiaba (SAN) that took this matter so personal against my person for doing nothing. I have forgiven Ikpeazu (SAN) too that maltreated me during this period of hostility.”