The anti-graft agency, in a counter-affidavit deposed to by one Mr. Francis Jirbo, said it was appalled that Metuh, who is facing a seven-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Limited, resorted to “antics and gimmicks” aimed at blackmailing trial Justice Okon Abang to hands off his case.
Metuh had in a petition he forwarded to the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, expressed his unwillingness to conclude his trial before Justice Abang, who he said he always had a “frosty relationship” with from their days in the Law school.
Aside the claim that the judge was his classmate, Metuh insisted that Justice Abang had through some interlocutory rulings so far delivered in the matter, shown elements of bias against him.
The petition with Ref No. EES/01/11/03/16 and dated March 11, 2016, was signed by one of the four Senior Advocates of Nigeria representing Metuh before the court, Mr. Etiaba, SAN.
Meantime, at the last adjourned date, March 24, Justice Abang, directed the EFCC to respond to Metuh’s bid to disqualify him from further presiding over his trial.
In its response, the commission argued that it was late in the day for the defendant to raise such issues, having already subjected himself to the jurisdiction of the court despite the fact that he purportedly attended law school together with the trial Judge.
“All manner of allegations, as stated by the defendants, were cooked up by them just to justify frustrating the stalling of proceedings. We submit that the antics and gimmicks deployed by the defendants are nothing but mere afterthought and pure blackmail aimed at intimidating the court to drop the case in the guise or pretext of bias by the judge.
“The allegations of bias levelled by the defendants against the court relate merely to the exercise of judicial powers by the court, without any evidence of facts or circumstances that suggest that the court did, in fact, favour one side unfairly.
“In the circumstances of this case, even if the judex and the 1st defendant (Metuh) were classmates, one would have thought that relationship would have given more concern to the prosecution than the defence for obvious reasons. The prosecution would have been the one to entertain fear that the court may favour its classmate.
“The 1st defendant suddenly woke up when it is time to open his defense to remember an alleged ‘frosty relationship’ that had existed over the years. This is blackmail of unprecedented proportion, which cannot be a ground to disqualify his lordship (the judge).
“Other tendentious and mundane allegations of bias remain unsubstantiated and unproven. Even the normal practice of a litigant (either in civil or criminal cases) standing either in the dock or witness box until his counsel draws the attention of the judex, with an oral request for the litigant to sit down, which is acceded to by the court, has become an issue of bias.
“Another germane issue on the allegation of bias is that the test of real likelihood of bias is that of a reasonable man, not that of a man, who has made up his mind to pull down the institution of justice in a desperate bid to undermine the judicial process and get off the hook by all means” , EFCC stated.