A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, has told the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, that he was appointed to represent four companies that pleaded guilty to laundering $15.5million allegedly belonging to former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
Another lawyer, Luke Aghanenu, also claimed that he was briefed by the companies to represent them.
Aghanenu filed a motion for change of counsel, praying the court to hold that he was validly appointed by the companies’ directors to represent them.
But, Ozekhome, in his counter-affidavit, said he was properly briefed by the companies to handle their case and undertake their defence in the charge.
Ozekhome is praying the court to nullify the guilty plea entered by the companies on the basis that they were not given fair hearing.
The companies through their representatives, pleaded guilty on September 15, 2016, and were convicted for laundering the money when they were arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
He said he was briefed by Briggs, who is the companies’ secretary.
In an affidavit in support of Ozekhome’s motion, a lawyer in his firm, Chimaobi Onuigbo, said the companies representatives who pleaded guilty to money laundering (Friday Davis, Agbo Baro, Dioghowori Fredrick and Taiwo Ebenezer) had earlier denied having anything to do with the companies or being directors.
The SAN said the representatives also refused to accept service of process in a suit by Mrs Jonathan against EFCC and others pending before Justice Mohammed Idris.
Justice Idris had directed parties to serve Briggs with the process since he was on record as the Companies’ Secretary.
Ozekhome said when Briggs was served with the process, he instructed him to defend the companies.
“Briggs then deposed to an affidavit…where he clearly stated that Chief Mike Ozekhome was instructed by the companies to undertake the defence of the 4th – 7th defendants (companies) in all legal proceedings they were involved in,” said the deponent.
The SAN added that there was no resolution of the board or general meeting of any of the companies that authorised the change of counsel, adding that companies through Briggs have not asked him to stop representing them.
“The attempt to appoint another legal representative by the directors is invalid, having regard to the fact that he (Briggs), vide a sworn affidavit and a letter of instruction given to Chief Ozekhome, asked him to represent the 4th – 7th defendants,” he said.
Besides, he said Justice Kuewumi had earlier ruled on a dispute on representation, recognizing him as the authorised counsel for the companies; therefore, the judge had become functus officio.
“I know that the application to change counsel is targeted at impeding the administration of justice and to prevent the 4th – 7th defendants from obtaining justice before this Honourable Court.
“It will be prejudicial to the 4th – 7th defendants as well as the interest of justice in this case if the applicants are granted their prayers in the application for change of counsel,” he said.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned till February 14.