A federal high court in Abuja has refused an application by Sani Katu seeking to withdraw his appearance as counsel to Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT).
At the court session on Wednesday, Katu, in an oral application, sought the leave of court to withdraw from the matter.
However, Farouk Abdullah, prosecution counsel, said while it is a thing of choice to represent a defendant in a suit, the senior counsel ought to have complied with section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Section 349(8) of ACJA states that “where a legal practitioner intends to disengage from a matter, he shall notify the Court, not less than three days before the date fixed for hearing and such notice shall be served on the Court and all parties”.
“My only reservation is the non-compliance with Section 349(8) of ACJA,” Abdullah said.
“In view of the non-compliance of senior counsel to the provision of the extant laws of withdrawal of counsel, we pray the court to refuse the application of the senior counsel and direct that the business of the day be done.”
Responding, Katu said he had informed the prosecution of his intention to withdraw from the suit after the close of Tuesday’s proceedings.
“When we appeared for the first defendant yesterday and in an attempt not to spring surprises on the prosecution, I specifically told the prosecution off record of our desirousness to withdraw from this matter. Hence our inability to file a formal application,” he said.
He then sought an adjournment to enable him to file a formal application of withdrawal before the court.
The prosecution also objected to the application for an adjournment.
“This application is outside the purview of Section 349(8) of ACJA which does not provide a leeway for an adjournment to file an application for withdrawal,” he said
“We, therefore, urge this court to discountenance the application for an adjournment for being misplaced.”
Ruling on the application, Okon Abang, the judge, agreed that the senior advocate failed to comply with the provisions of the law.
He said whatever was discussed between the two counsels is not the business of the court.
“What is off record is not before the court and I cannot take countenance of what is not before the court,” Abang held.
He described the application for withdrawal as one “done in bad faith”.
“M.S Katu has not offered any reason for seeking to withdraw from this matter,” the judge held
“His application to withdraw is to compound issues and to hold the court to ransom.
“In any event, from the record from the court, a notice has not been filed before the court.
“If a law requires that notice should be filed, it should be filed. It is not a sentimental issue but an issue of law which cannot be overlooked.
“The obvious lapses on his part cannot move the court to grant this application.
“The application to withdraw legal representation and cause confusion in the matter lacks merit and is accordingly refused.”
The court also refused an application for adjournment and ordered the defendant to produce his next witness.
Maina is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.
At the commencement of the case, he was being represented by Joe Gazama, a senior advocate of Nigeria, and Adeola Adedipe from the chambers of Ahmed Raji.
However, the counsels withdrew their appearances in December 2020 after the defendant jumped bail.
Adedipe who was representing Common Input Investment Limited, Maina’s company, withdrew from the case on the grounds that he was not paid for his services and he is unable to locate Maina.
Another counsel had announced legal representation upon Maina’s extradition from Niger Republic.
Anayo Adibe, a lawyer, had also taken charge of the matter at some point before Katu announced his appearance in the case on February 1.