April 16, 2021

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sani Katu, has told the Federal High Court in Abuja why he is resigning as the lead defence counsel for the chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, who is being prosecuted for N2 billion money laundering.

He said in a court document filed on Wednesday, but which PREMIUM TIMES obtained on Thursday, that his mind and that of Mr Maina “are at cross purpose” over the case.

The SAN will be the third lawyer to officially quit the defence team in the last three months.

He had sought to quit the case on Wednesday, but he was stopped by the trial judge, Okon Abang, who said he could not withdraw his appearance without giving the court a minimum of three-day notice as stipulated in section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

Following the court’s ruling, the lawyer filed a formal application seeking leave to be allowed to withdraw from the case immediately after Wednesday’s proceedings.

PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday obtained copies of his motion on notice, affidavit deposed to by a lawyer in his law firm, Muhammad Mustapha, a written address, and the letter of instruction issued him by Mr Maina.

“The application is primarily asking for the leave of this honourable court to enable the lead counsel, Muhammad Sani Katu, SAN, to withdraw his appearance and further representation of the 1st defendant (Mr Maina), for the sole reason that both the minds of the counsel and that of the 1st defendant are at cross purpose,” the written address accompanying the application reads in part.

Mr Mustapha, who deposed to the affidavit filed in support of the application, introduced a context of “cheat” into the issue but did not give details.

“Some confidential cheats occurred both within and outside the court that indicates that both the counsel and the 1st defendant are working on a cross-purpose,” Mr Mustapha stated.

He added that the granting of the application, “will enable the 1st defendant to bring a counsel of his choice in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”

The details of the circumstances of the non-alignment of the minds of Mr Katu and the defendant were not given.

But PREMIUM TIMES reported on Wednesday that Mr Katu distanced himself from the subpoenas which Mr Maina’s other lawyer applied to be issued on the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and others.

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The newspaper reported on Tuesday that the court had at the instance of Mr Maina issued separate subpoenas on Mr Malami, the Governor of Central Bank (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, a former acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, to testify for the defence.

Mr Katu, while addressing the court on Wednesday, said that of the over 10 subpoenas, he only applied for three, which were for bank officials.

The court had on Wednesday adjourned further proceedings till Thursday.

Maina’s unstable legal representation

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Mr Maina along with his company, Common Input Property & Investment Limited, for allegedly laundering N2billion in pension funds.

Mr Katu, who said he was briefed by Mr Maina via a letter of instruction dated December 31, 2020, would be the third lawyer to officially quit the defence team in the last three months.

Two lawyers – Joe Kyari-Gadzama, a SAN, and Adeola Adedipe – left the defence team after their separate applications for withdrawal were granted by the court in December.

Mr Maina had immediately engaged Anayo Adibe, but subsequently brought in Mr Katu to lead the defence team, while also retaining Mr Adibe on the team.

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