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Appeal court nullifies Metuh’s conviction, orders fresh trial

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Wednesday nullified the conviction of former spokesman for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, on alleged money laundering and corruption charges.

The court held that Okon Abang, judge of a federal high court in Abuja, exhibited bias in Metuh’s case.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Metuh on seven counts of allegedly receiving N400 million from the office of the National Security Adviser.

On February 25, 2020, the trial court pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

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.

He prayed the court to upturn the judgment of the lower court.

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 suggests 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 have 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.”

Justice Adah subsequently ordered a return of the suit to the Federal High Court for fresh hearing by another judge.

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Why northern governors opposed Jonathan’s second term bid – Babangida Aliyu

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Former governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has said northern governors rose against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid in 2015 because of the perceived threat of his victory to the North.

Aliyu said in Minna on Friday that the northern governors felt at the time that their part of the country stood in a disadvantaged position and would be shortchanged should Jonathan win a re-election.

He claimed that Jonathan had earlier reached an agreement with the north to complete what was left of the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and then run for only one term.

He said the ex-president’s insistence on going for another term in 2015 was against the agreement he had with the northern governors.

“Following the sudden passage of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, the leadership of the then governing Peoples Democratic Party along with the state governors under the flagship of the party had series of meetings on the presidency and the future of our great party,” he said.

The ex-governor also said, “All the governors in the North under the PDP supported the then Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to complete the remaining years of Yar’Adua’s tenure and to contest the next presidential election as a sole candidate of our great party.

“However, midway, President Goodluck Jonathan insisted to run for the office in 2015 against the grain of our earlier agreement.

“Since this was against the grain of our earlier agreement in the party, and which we the governors in the north felt the North would have been shortchanged if Jonathan had succeeded, we rose stoutly to insist on the agreement we all had.

“On that premise, we opposed Jonathan. But all along, Goodluck Jonathan had enjoyed every support from the governors in the north and the entire region.”

The former governor said it was wrong for anyone to say that he opposed Goodluck Jonathan.

He added that as the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum then, it was his responsibility to tell the people about the stand of the governors.

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Makinde’s candidate, Arapaja, emerges PDP South-West chairman

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Former Oyo State Deputy Governor, Taofeek Arapaja, has been declared the South-West chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He was pronounced winner of the hotly contested poll by chairman of the region’s congress and Benue Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu.

Arapaja, backed by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, polled 343 votes to defeat Dr Eddy Olafeso, who scored 330.

Olafeso is of the camp of former Ekiti Governor Ago Fayose.

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743 PDP delegates to vote in today’s South-West congress

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National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has approved 743 delegates to elect the party’s South-West zonal leaders at region’s conference holding in Oshogbo, Osun State today (Monday).

Already, the NWC has also released the list of members of the Election Committee and the Election Appeal Committee.

A statement containing the delegates’ list signed by the National Organising Secretary of the party, Col Austin Akobundu (retd), showed that Oyo State has a total of 171 delegates, while Ogun State has 114; Osun State, 130; Ekiti State, 115; and Lagos State, 101.

Akobundu named the Benue State governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, as chairman of the election committee, while Senator Sandy Onoh, Ogun Otemabore and Ireruoke Edward will serve as members. Senator Samuel Anyanwu will serve as secretary.

The party also appointed an election appeal committee headed by Chief Okey Ezenwa who will serve as chairman, Mr. Roland Najomoh, secretary, while Clement Okaredir will serve as a member.

Due to the supremacy battle between Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, and a former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose, the venue for the election was changed from Ibadan to Osogbo to ensure fairness and avoid giving any advantage to either of the two leaders of the party in the region.

While Makinde is said to be sponsoring Mr Taofeek Arapaja, a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Fayose is said to be backing Mr Eddy Olafeso, a former governorship aspirant in Ondo State and the immediate past chairman of the party in the zone.

The feud between Makinde and Fayose was responsible for the delay in the conduct of the party’s congress in the South-West zone.

The NWC had intervened severally to ensure a consensus candidate for the chairmanship position to no avail.

Already, Arapaja and Olafeso have been cleared to contest the party’s top post in the region.

Also cleared are Mr Rahman Olokaniron and Mr Jenvo Bunni for the position of zonal secretary.

For the office of zonal treasurer, those cleared are Mr Ogunje Samson and Mr Ojo Michael, while the candidates for the zonal organising secretary are Mr Amuwa Adegbenro and Mr Faisu Adewele.

Those contesting for zonal publicity secretary are Mr Olusanya Adefarari and Mr. Fadaka Ayodele, while Mr Adewoyin Babatunde and Mr Philip Okubode were cleared to contest for the position of zonal financial secretary.

Babatunde Samuel and Muniru Kukouye were cleared to contest for the office of zonal legal adviser, while those cleared for the zonal auditor are Dominic Adegbola, Balogun Ayuba and Adeolu Adewunmi.

For the office of zonal woman leader, Ms Modinat Adedibu and Ms Abimbola Balogun were cleared.

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