JUSTICE Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, May 24, faulted a medical report by the National Hospital, Abuja, which placed the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, on bed rest in the hospital.
Metuh, whose trial was to continue on Tuesday, was absent from court on the strength of the medical report. Justice Abang said the medical report was unhelpful to the court as it failed to indicate the period that would be sufficient for Metuh’s bed rest at the hospital.
The judge had on Monday adjourned till Tuesday for the continuation of the testimony of the fifth defence witness, Mr. Richard Ihediwa. After the case was called on Tuesday, Ihediwa, a journalist who served as special assistant to Metuh, mounted the witness box, but Metuh was absent.
The judge then inquired from Metuh’s lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), about the whereabouts of his client. In response, Ikpeazu said the defendant was on a bed rest at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Ikpeazu then passed to the judge a medical report signed by a neurosurgeon consultant at the National Hospital, Dr. O.O Olaleye, confirming that Metuh was in the hospital for a bed rest. The lawyer sought an adjournment of the case contending that the situation in section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, in which the judge is allowed to proceed with a criminal trial without the defendant present in court, had not arisen.
The provision of the law provides that the court may proceed with a criminal trial if a defendant already granted bail is absent from court in violation of a court order or in the absence of any good reason for the absence of the defendant.
But the judge, in a ruling which he delivered after entertaining the submission of parties to the case, noted that although, Metuh had good reason to be absent from court, the medical report was unhelpful, as it failed to indicate the period which the rest would last. The judge said the omission of the period for the bed rest in the medical report had left doubt as to whether the report was issued in bad or good faith.
He ruled, “I have considered section 352(4) and 266(a) and (b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act cited by counsel. I think the first defendant has good reason to be absent from court today.
“The medical report is not really helpful to the court as to the period he will be on the bed rest. As an expert, the medical doctor ought to have provided the period in his medical report which the first defendant would have had an adequate and sufficient bed rest. I have been wondering if this omission was in good or bad faith because it is expected of a medical doctor to have stated the period of the bed rest. It cannot be hanging in the air.”
The judge then fixed May 30 for continuation of the trial. The judge ruled, “Since the medical report is not sufficient the court is enjoined to be guided by section 396(5) of ACJ act. In the light of this, this matter is adjourned till May 30 without fail for the continuation of the evidence-in-chief of the fifth defence witness.” – Punch
— May 24, 2016 @ 17:45 GMT