The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has opposed a plan by Sani Katu (SAN), counsel to Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, to withdraw from the ongoing money laundering trial.
EFCC’s counsel, Farouk Abdullah, urged Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to reject the oral application by Mr. Katu because it failed to comply with the law’s relevant section.
Mr. Katu notified the court of his intention to withdraw from the trial.
He explained, “The matter is for the continuation of hearing for us to bring another witness. Before then, we have a very simple application to make. It is to seek from this honourable court to withdraw from this matter. In making this application, we have all it takes to appreciate the court’s indulgence.”
However, Mr. Abdullah opposed the prayer, saying Mr. Katu did not comply with Section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 in making the request.
“As rightly stated by the senior counsel, the matter is slated for continuation of defence. My lord, the defendant has a constitutional right to a counsel of his choice, and a counsel in a matter can also withdraw at any time he deems fit.
“My only reservation is the non-compliance with Section 349(8) of ACJA 2015. In view of the non-compliance of senior counsel with the provision of extant law on withdrawal of counsel, we pray the court to refuse the application and direct that the business of the day be done,” he said.
Mr. Katu, who acknowledged that the section of the law provided that an application for notification to withdraw had to be made to the court not less than three days before the hearing, said he discussed the matter with the prosecution counsel off the record.
He, therefore, prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable him to file necessary papers in compliance with the law.
Responding, Mr. Abdullah said the law did not give the court the avenue to use its discretionary power on the matter.
“The operative words ‘shall notify the court’ is mandatory to rob the court of the discretion to direct otherwise. We, therefore, urge the court to discountenance his application for adjournment,” he added.
In his ruling, the judge, who held that “what is off the record is not before the court,” said the adjournment application lacked merit.
“Obviously, he did not comply with Section 349(8) of ACJA,” he ruled.
The judge added that Katu had not offered any explanation on his intention to withdraw from the case. He said his plan to withdraw was to compound the issues before the court and hold the court to ransom.
Mr. Abang, who refused the application, ordered the proceeding for the day to continue.
In the trial, Joe Gadzama (SAN) Adeola Adedipe, were among Mr. Maina’s lawyers who had withdrawn from the case.
Mr. Maina and his company, Common Input Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC on charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N2.1 billion. (NAN)