The Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday, insisted that Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN) was the counsel on record representing former governor of Adamawa, Muritala Nyako in his ongoing alleged N29 billion money laundering case.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang said this in a short ruling following the announcement of Mr Okon Efut as the new counsel for Nyako and his co-defendants and an objection by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, (SAN).
Justice Abang said that although it was the right of defendants to engage a counsel of their choice, before Efut announced his appearance for the defendants, Agabi had not applied to withdraw from the matter.
“The court has not granted Agabi leave to withdraw from the matter, and he has not given the court the three days’ notice required by law for counsel wishing to withdraw appearance from a case.
“The provisions of Section 349 (7) and (8) were not put in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) for fun or decoration, they are to provide speedy dispensation of justice and effective criminal case management.
“The court is not saying that defendants cannot brief a new counsel, but that Agabi must comply with the law before the court can recognise a new counsel.
“So, the court still recognises Agabi as the counsel of the first set of defendants,” the judge said.
Justice Abang accused the defendants of not acting in good faith as well as not treating the court fairly and taking the court’s desire to give justice as weakness and insisted that “the court is not weak”.
Earlier, when the matter was called Efut announced his appearance saying he was the new counsel representing Nyako, having been briefed to take over the matter on Tuesday at 8:00PM.
He prayed the court for an adjournment to enable him to peruse the case file in order to effectively defend his clients.
Efut told the court that he had practiced law at Agabi’s chambers but left in 2011 to set up his private practice.
He also told the court that he did not personally bring the case files to court but that he came to meet the case files in court as they were brought by a counsel from Agabi’s chambers.
The senior lawyer insisted that the defendants had always attended court and were eager to defend the matter to its logical conclusion.
He urged the court to accept his argument and exercise its discretion on the constitutional side of fair hearing.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, (SAN), however, opposed the application for adjournment on the grounds that Efut was a lawyer at the law firm of Agabi.
“My colleague cannot say he is coming in as a new counsel in the true sense of the word. He cannot say it is a different lawyer who does not know anything about this case.
“Even if he is coming in as a new counsel, provisions of ACJA are not there for fun.
“We have lost eight clear days on account of their adjournment from the time the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling as they have been dragging their feet since then.”
He accused the defendants of using the excuse of engaging a new counsel to frustrate and delay the trial.
Jacobs prayed the court to ask the defendants to enter their defence as they had exhausted the time permitted by law for them to have another adjournment.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter until Nov. 30.
He advised the defendants to take advantage of the adjournment and put their house in order so as to avoid “the devastating consequences” that could arise if the further undermine the court.
It was reported that Nyako, his son and other co-defendants are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged money laundering to the tune of N29 billion.