The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has opposed the plan by Sani Katu, SAN, counsel to Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), to withdraw from the ongoing trial.
On Wednesday, the EFCC counsel, Farouk Abdullah told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to reject the oral application by Maina’s counsel on the ground that it failed to comply with relevant section of the law.
Katu notifying the court of his intention to withdraw from the trial said: “I’ve come to seek from this honourable court to especially withdraw from this trial.”
However, EFCC counsel opposed the prayer, saying the senior counsel in making his request failed to comply with Section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
“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 with 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 ask the court to refuse the application and direct that the business of the day be done,” he said.
Katu, acknowledging that the section of the law provides that an application for notification to withdraw had to be made to the court not less than 3 days before hearing, said he had a discussion with the prosecution counsel “off record” on the issue before the sitting.
He, therefore, asked the court for a short adjournment in order to file necessary papers in compliance with the law.
Responding, Abdullah said the law does not give the court the avenue to use its discretionary power on such 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 said
In his ruling, Justice Abang, who held that “what is off record is not before the court,” said the application for adjournment lacked merit and does not comply with Section 349(8) of ACJA
The judge also noted that Katu’s withdrawal was to compound the issues before the court and to hold the court to ransom.
Maina and his company, Common Input Limited, are under trial by the anti-graft agency on charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N2.1 billion.