The immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh’s lead defence counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), has said his client has told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that he is willing to return the N400m he allegedly received from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November, 2014.
Metuh is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly receiving the money, which the prosecution alleged was collected from the $2.1bn arms funds allegedly diverted by the former NSA’s office to other purposes aside from buying arms to fight insurgency.
The money was said to have been released to him to launder the alleged bad image of former President Goodluck Jonathan a few months to the 2015 presidential election which Jonathan eventually lost.
Metuh lost his bid at the FCT High Court to secure his passport to enable him to travel abroad for a check-up.
Ikpeazu, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said Metuh had always indicated to the EFCC that he was willing to return the money right from when the anti-graft agency invited him for questioning before charges were filed against him.
The lawyer said he advised Metuh after his trial began before a Federal High Court in Abuja to write a letter to the EFCC, indicating his intention to return the N400m, which he stated the former PDP spokesperson heeded.
He insisted that Metuh initially thought the money came from former President Goodluck Jonathan but readily indicated to return the money as soon as the EFCC made him to realise the money was from the ONSA.
Ikpeazu said, “It started from when the EFCC interviewed him and said he received N450m from government. Then, he told them that he wasn’t aware of any such payment that he only received N400m from the President.
“At the end of that interview he told them that if indeed the money given to him came from the ONSA’s account , and if it had anything to do with the arms deal, because he had no contract with the office, he was willing to return the money instantly.
“So, they told him they would get back to him. And the next thing was that they arrested him.
“I saw the letter he wrote to the EFCC. So, he has always been willing at any given time that if indeed what they are saying is correct, he is ready to return the money.
“From the evidence led so far, it was clear from their (EFCC’s) own witnesses that he (Metuh) made representation to Jonathan and Jonathan made the money available to him. He did not know the details of the money.”
However, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, told one of our correspondents that he could not comment on the matter because it was already in court.
“The matter is in court and I cannot react on it.”
When asked if Metuh had formally written the EFCC over his intention to refund money, Wilson added, “I cannot confirm receipt of such a letter. Let him present the matter in court.”
Earlier on Thursday, Metuh’s family members said their son was ready to refund the N400m he allegedly collected from Dasuki.
His family, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said Metuh was ready to refund the money.
Chief Gilbert Metuh, who issued the statement on behalf of the family, said his brother’s life was in danger because of his alleged spinal cord injury.
He said the family was aware that the matter regarding the former PDP spokesman was sub-judice, stating that the family was only reacting to issues that were in the public domain.
Gilbert said, “Since his (Metuh’s) arrest and even up to about a week ago, our son has made several overtures to the arresting authorities for him to return the money since they now claim in court that it came from government coffers. All efforts have been unsuccessful.
“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.”
Gilbert said his accused brother was diagnosed with a spinal cord problem in 2004, alleging that due to his detention, the situation worsened.
“In the course of his trial, the situation deteriorated, especially after he fell at a meeting in the party office,” he added.
He added that the family was shocked that with all the information available to the court regarding Metuh’s grave medical condition and the critical need for him to have this corrective surgery, the Federal High Court Abuja refused his application.
Gilbert added, “Our request is on the basis of a life-threatening ailment and we will be undertaking with our own private resources.
“He currently relies on palliatives being given to him at the National Hospital Abuja waiting for the opportunity of a corrective surgery.”