Former spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, has dropped the two Senior Advocates of Nigeria leading his defence in his N400m money laundering case before the Federal High Court in Abuja, hiring another lawyer, Mr Abel Ozioko, to take over from them, The PUNCH reports.
Ozioko appeared in the case for the first time on Wednesday.
Metuh’s decision to stop Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu and Mr Emeka Etiaba came barely 24 hours after they filed an application for withdrawal as the defendant’s counsel.
Justice Okon Abang on March 5, 2019 fixed March 13, 2019 for the hearing of the SANs’ application. But before the scheduled hearing, Metuh stopped them.
Ikpeazu and Etiaba had led his defence since January 2016 when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission preferred the charges against him.
Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC on money laundering charges involving allegations that they both fraudulently took the sum N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser “when they reasonably ought to know” that the money was part of the proceeds of alleged criminal act of then NSA, Sambo Dasuki”.
Metuh was also accused of transacting with a cash of $2m without going through a financial institution in violation of a provision of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, Ikpeazu informed the judge that his application seeking an order permitting him and his law firm to withdraw from the case had been overtaken by event following Metuh’s letter stopping his law firm.
Ikpeazu then sought to withdraw the application.
Lawyer for Destra Investments Limited, the second defendant in the case, Mr Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), opposed Ikpeazu’s request to withdraw his application on the grounds that the move was not in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Sylvanus Tahir, too agreed with Onwugbufor, adding that he had already filed a counter-affidavit to oppose the application being sought to be withdrawn and that the hearing needed to go on to enable him to “set the record straight” contrary to the facts as stated by Ikpeazu.
Justice Abang sought to know Metuh’s “legal strategy” of “hurriedly” disengaging the SANs barely 24 hours after they applied to withdraw from the case.
The judge however said he lacked the power to question Metuh’s decision to change his counsel
The judge then made an order discharging Ikpeazu and his law from the case.
Ozioko informed the judge that he was only briefed by his client on Tuesday and needed some time to study the case.
He then applied that the case be adjourned for two weeks.
The application for adjournment was not opposed to by Onwugbufor (second defenant’s counsel) and Tahir (prosecuting counsel).
Granting the application for adjournment, the judge adjourned the matter till March 27.
He said the proceedings would hold daily as from the next hearing date.