A former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, has appealed to the judiciary to formulate robust practice directions to ensure objective criteria for granting a medical dispensation to those awaiting trial or even in incarceration.
Metuh, while addressing the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Abuja Chapter, during a courtesy visit, narrated his experience while on trial at the Federal High Court.
He stated that his entreaties for medical treatment were repeatedly refused, even with medical reports (including X-rays, Scan and MRIs) from several reputable university teaching hospitals in Nigeria.
He said in the last 14 months, he has had several procedures and surgeries to attempt to correct the damage to his health arising from his inability to get the requisite treatment and advanced specialist care during his trial.
He said, “I welcome you on your visit of solidarity to console me over the travails I have had with my health, especially this surgery which was deeper than what I thought at first. I was really scared because when they took me to the theatre; they discovered that my condition had, as is often the case with the human body, been exacerbated because they could not be treated early.
“In the past 14 months, I have gone through harrowing procedures and surgeries. All the experts that I saw informed me that the delay in getting timely treatment has caused fundamental damage to my physiology and overall health.
“This is all because I was denied the presumption of innocence that should have worked in my favour. This denial appeared to be arbitrary and without adverting to the detailed medical reports including X-rays, scans and MRIs from several reputable University Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria.
“My lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN, even offered to use his practicing certificate and licence as additional guarantee. I had no choice but to attend court on hospital stretchers and wheelchairs, often incapacitated and in excruciating pain.
“As a very senior lawyer myself, I honestly believe that clear and detailed practice directions on accommodation of applications for indulgence on medical grounds would have vastly reduced and probably eliminated the scope for caprice, which has proved so deleterious to my health. To paraphrase a litigant in America whose charges were vacated as mine have but only after suffering personal adversity, ‘I am happy for my freedom but where can I go to get my health back?’”
Metuh appealed to the Judiciary to look at ways of giving benefit of doubts to defendants who have medical conditions and might need urgent expert medical attention and treatment.
“If in doubt, the Judge may be required to order the medical doctor or the chief medical director of the hospital to appear to certify the report and verbally justify the need to grant the leave for medical treatment,” Metuh added.
The President of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Abuja Chapter, Chief S.O.D Onyekwere, thanked God for saving Metuh’s life and urged him to remain strong and continue in good spirit in spite of his travails.
He said, “We thank God for the strength and resilience you showed throughout and most of all your faith in God”.
The Court of Appeal had, in December 2020, voided the February 25, 2020 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Okon Abang, on the grounds of manifest bias by the trial judge.