Legal Nigeria

Jonathan paid Metuh for image laundering – witness tells court

The spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh opened his defence Monday before the Federal High Court, Abuja after unsuccessful attempts to stall proceedings.
Last Friday, trial judge, Justice Okon Abang threw out a series of applications he filed on the ground that they were meant to stall proceedings.
The judge adjourned to Monday, warning him to open his defence in the case, failing which he will forfeit the opportunity.
Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited are being tried before the court for unlawfully receiving N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and allegedly engaging in money laundering.
Monday, rather than commence his defence as directed by the judge at the last hearing, Tochukwu Onwugbufo (SAN), who announced appearance for Metuh’s company, began a long argument on why the court should adjourned proceedings on the ground that he was new in the case.
Justice Abang, in a ruling, rejected his oral application for adjournment and ordered Metuh to open his defence by calling his witnesses, an order Metuh’s lawyer; Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) complied with by calling Metuh’s first witness, Ike Ogbonna.
Ogbonna, who said he had worked as a journalist, starting with the defunct Triumph newspaper, through the Champion newspaper, New Telegraph (as a Deputy Managing Director) and ended as with Thisday newspaper, from where he was appointed as Media Adviser to former National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo.
He gave details how Metuh was paid by former President Goodluck Jonathan for the publicity activities he carried out for the PDP during the run off to the last general election.
“I know Olisa Metuh. While I was Media Adviser at the PDP national secretariat, I met Olisa Metuh close, although I have been hearing of him.
When I came to the party, he was the National Vice Chairman, South East. Since I also came from the South East, Metuh was part of the team set up by the then National Chairman to reposition the image of the party. That assignment brought us together. To the extent that when I returned to the newsroom, I remained in contact with Metuh, who was with the party.
He called me and said that he is not a media person, but his new role involved media activities.
And that by virtue of my experience and relationship with the party, he was going to rely on me, and that he did, consulting me on virtually every issue, even though I was not directly working for him.
Dr. Nwodo engaged a PR firm called CMC Connect. Which help Dr. Nwodo packaged his programme of improving the image of the party.
Since Metuh was part of Dr. Nwodo’s team, he also came in contact with CMC Connect.
Soon after his election as Assistant Publicity Secretary, he called me to arrange with CMC Connect to meet with him. This I did and the Managing Director of CMC Connect, Mr. Yomi Badejo came with his team, which met with Metuh and some officials of the Publicity Directorate of the party.
He appealed to the consulting firm that he would want them to return and continue from where they stopped when Dr.Nwodo was there.
The firm said it was willing to return, but that the party was owning them. Metuh promised to push a case for them at the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting.
Following their presentation at the meeting, Metuh said he will engage them. But as at that time, there were no resources to engage them. He promised to get back to them if he gets resources from the party.
Eventually, towards the end of 2014, Metuh approached me, where I was the Deputy Managing Director of the New Telegraph newspapers, and requested that he will need my full services this time.
“He said he will like if I can come into the party as a consultant to help him on the new challenge of improving the image of the party, which he said, was in a bad shape, and by his position, all eyes were on him to come up with strategies to shore up the image of the party, ahead of the general elections.
“That was at the point I left the New Telegraph to join him for the purposes of addressing the challenge he spoke about. He told me CMC Connect would be needed. I told him CMC Connect is too expensive, and that we can work with smaller PR firms, but he insisted on CMC Connect, saying the assignment was enormous and that he would rather go for the best.
“When I told him about the issue of funding, he said the general election was coming and that the issue of lack of money in his department would soon be a thing of the past, because the leader of the party, who was the President of Nigeria, will have no choice than to fund his department.
“The main consideration for involving CMC Connect was the quality of their services. In addition to quality, the party was owing CMC Connect, and Metuh has promised to pay them. He also made a commitment to them (CMC Connect) that when funding comes, they would be considered first.
“Even when I tried to lure Metuh out of CMC Connect, so that we can use other firms, he reminded me that he had made a commitment and will not like to go against it.
We eventually called CMC Connect to join a team of other journalists and some politicians, where Metuh told us that he has been given an assignment by the leader of the party, then President Goodluck Jonathan to come up with a strategy that will help the party win the forthcoming general election.
“Metuh told us that the assignment given to him, was also given to some other professionals. And that we should see it as a challenge and make sure that our own strategy will prevail in the choice that the party’ leadership and the President will make.
“The team anchored by CMC Connect, prepared some strategies and after testing and rehearsals, with Metuh presiding in most of the meetings, we all agreed that we had a good product to present. And Metuh said we should wait for clearance from the Presidential Villa, the seat of power, for a date for the presentation.
“One afternoon, he came to me that he has just received a call from the National Chairman of the party, Adamu Muazu, that the President will be ready for the presentation that night.
“All the other members of the team were resident in Abuja, except CMC Connect, which was based in Lagos. We called its Managing Director, Yomi Badejo to take the next available flight to Abuja for the presentation. Because he was already expecting the day of the appointment for the presentation, he took the next available flight and arrived Abuja at about 6pm.
“When we arrived at the Presidential Villa, it was only Metuh’s car that was allowed to enter. But he and Metuh waited for us at the security clearing area. After the clearance, we were ushered into a waiting room.
Metuh left us and entered into an inner room. 15 minutes later, Metuh came to call us. And we entered a very large parlour, with the President sited, with the Vice President, Senate President and the National Chairman of PDP and the then Governrs of Cross River and Anambra states and some media aides of the President, including Dr. Reuben Abati, Doyi Okupe.
“We sat down. Then the Presidnet said, ‘Olisa where are your men,? He called us and the MD of CMC Connect was the first to speakfrom our team. He wnt in with a projector and demonstrated most of the strategies we had in mind.
“After the presentation, the President requested for comments from other members of the team. And after our comments, he said jokingly that we were too hard on him, because virtually all, who spoke in our team told him that his image was in a bad shape and that he himself was not helping the matter the way he was handling it.
“At a point Reuben Abati, the President’s Media Adviser, who saw our presentation as an indictment on him, told the President that the situation was not as bad as we tried to portray. But the President overruled him.
“After the presentation, the President asked for comment from those sitting with him. And most of the speakers made positive remarks and that they were impressed with what we presented.
“The Office of the Media Adviser also did a presentation. Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Adviser on Public Affairs, and other professionals brought in by party and government officials, made their own presentations too.
“Ultimately, given the comments of people that were sitting with the president, I recalled vividly, the comment of former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, who told the President that, if what this team presented can be put into action, they should be quickly mobilised because if nothing is done immediately before the President started campaign, it would be difficult to win the election, given the public perception of him and his government at that time.
“The President then said, since there appeared that to be the consensus of the people with him them, that Metuh and his team, did a better job, he would advise that all the others should collapse into Chief Metuh’s team, because he would want the consultant to provide the direction.
“At that point, the President told Chief Metuh that he has done a good job, but that the real job is still out there to put all these into action and told him to bring a corporate account to him for immediate mobilisation and action,” Ogbonna said.
When asked if he knew how the Office of the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, headed by Metuh was funded, Ogonna said “the extent that I operated as Media Adviser there and as a political journalist that is familiar with political activities, I am aware that the funding of the Office of the National Publicity Secretary come mainly from the party and the leader of the party, who happened to be President Goodluck Jonathan at the time,” Ogbonna said.
Under cross-examination by the prosecution lawyer, Ogbonna said he was not privy to the source of the money paid for the job they did, but “Chief Metuh told me that the President called him and said the money had been paid. I was no paid as an individual.
Further hearing resumes on April 20.
The Nation