The two senior lawyer leading the defence of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in his N400 million money laundering case before the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday said they were withdrawing from the case.
In an application, which they filed before the court, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), and Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN) said they had received “threats to life” and been under “immense pressure” for appearing in the case.
The two lawyers, who had been defending the ex-spokesperson for the PDP since the money laundering case was instituted in January 2016, also said they could not afford to appear in the matter day-to-day as earlier ordered by the presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang.
“The honourable court has ordered day-to-day hearing in this matter and counsel will be unable to afford the time, having regard to the diaries of their respective offices,” they stated as part of the grounds of their application.
An affidavit deposed to by Ikpeazu and filed in support of the application, added, “Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and myself have been going through immense pressure with respect to our appearance in this case and will be unable to continue to represent the first defendant.
“I have received numerous threats to my life from diverse sources through telephone calls with disguised numbers giving ultimatums and threatening to kill me based on the manner they claimed I had been mishandling the case.”
Ikpeazu stated that he was informed by Etiaba that “he had received similar threats and will thus no longer proceed with the representation of the first defendant”.
While Metuh was present in court yesterday, his two lead lawyers were absent from the proceedings in which he and his company, Destra Investment Limited, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on seven counts of money laundering.
The charges included allegations that they both fraudulently took the sum N400 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) “when they reasonably ought to know” that the money was part of the proceeds of an alleged criminal act of the then NSA, Sambo Dasuki.
Metuh was also accused of transacting with a cash of $2 million without going through a financial institution in violation of a provision of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
In the absence of his two lead counsel yesterday, Metuh got the judge’s permission to consult with the lawyer representing his company, Destra Investments Limited, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN).
On returning from the consultation, Metuh pleaded with the judge to grant an adjournment to enable the lawyers to appear in court to move their application.
Both Onwugbufor and EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, did not oppose the application for adjournment.
The judge adjourned the case till March 13.