Nigeria’s Court: Ex-head of state key to Nigeria corruption trial

Nigeria’s ex-president Goodluck Jonathan

LAGOS, NIGERIA–– This week, a court was informed that Nigeria’s ex-president Goodluck Jonathan must be considered as a “vital witness” in the bribery, fraud and widespread graft cases against his party’s former spokesperson.

Olisa Metuh is indicted on collecting 400 million nairas ($1.1 million, 940,000 euros) from Jonathan’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

Dasuki, once a powerful figure in Nigeria, is censured for using some $2 billion in the country’s defense funds earmarked for the fight against Boko Haram to assist in funding Jonathan’s re-election effort in 2015.

Eyewitnesses say court officials have made more than three fruitless attempts to serve the former president with a summons to appear at the hearing of Olisa Metuh in the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Metuh upholds an argument that former president Jonathan was aware of the reimbursement and his attorney, Emeka Etiaba, said the attendance of the former head of state at the trial would establish whether his client should be prosecuted in any case.

“We have earlier indicated that former President Goodluck Jonathan is a vital witness in this case.

“We have said that the need for (Metuh) to testify will only arise after we have appraised the evidence that will come from our next witness (Jonathan).

“We submit that it is only when former president Jonathan has testified that we will know whether the defense for the first defendant has been sufficiently made.”

Former President Jonathan has not been questioned about any of the allegations, according to reliable sources. But defense lawyer Etiaba told reporters covering the trial that they are “not asking for too much” for the ex-president to testify.

The case against Dasuki is the highest-profile action of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s crusade against pervasive corruption.

An assistant to the former president told the court that the ex-president might be available to accept the summons next week Monday.

In November this year, Dasuki, the principal accused who is also using the ex-head of the state as an excuse, refuted ever illicitly funneling the security funds to well-known associates of the People’s Democratic Party when he showed up at Metuh’s trial.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutor Sylvanus Tahir told the court that ex-President Jonathan’s presence “should not be used as a ploy to arm-twist or tie down the hands of the court.”

Arguing further that the defense has adequate evidence.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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