The law firm of Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and a lawyer, Luke Aghanenu, clashed on Wednesday in a criminal case involving the sum of $15.5m being claimed by ex-First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
Both Ozekhome’s law firm and Aghanenu separately claimed to have been hired to represent four companies, which were allegedly used to launder the $15.5m, that Patience is claiming ownership of.
The four companies are said to have links with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa.
The EFCC had charged Dudafa and the four companies to court for allegedly conspiring to launder the $15.5m, said to be proceeds of criminal activities.
Also joined in the criminal charge is a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs, and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.
The EFCC had, prior to arraigning the defendants in court, frozen the $15.5m found in the Skye Bank accounts of the four companies.
But Patience filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit challenging the freezing order, on the claim that the $15.5m found in the accounts of the four companies belonged to her.
Meanwhile, upon the arraignment of Dudafa, Briggs, Bolodeoku and the four companies before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos on September 15, 2016, the four companies had pleaded guilty to laundering the $15.5m.
Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty.
The guilty plea taken by the companies was entered on their behalf by four persons, whose names, according to the EFCC, were registered as the companies’ directors at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
However, Ozekhome later appeared in the case on May 8, 2017 with an application, seeking to change the plea of the companies from guilty to not guilty.
Ozekhome argued that the four persons who pleaded guilty on behalf of the companies did not have the authority to do so.
At the Wednesday’s proceedings, Ozekhome was not in court, but a lawyer from his law firm, Chima Onuigbo, was in court.
Just as Onuigbo announced appearance for the four companies, another lawyer, Aghanenu, who appeared in the matter for the first time, also announced appearance for the companies, sparking off an argument between the two lawyers.
Aghanenu claimed that he had been engaged as the authentic lawyer for the company and that he ought to be the one speaking for them.
But Onuigbo, who explained that Ozekhome was hired to defend the companies by Briggs, described Aghanenu as an interloper.
Wading in, Justice Kwuemi said Aghanenu had to file a proper application to prove that he was indeed engaged by the companies.
Meanwhile, Briggs, who claimed to the secretary of the four companies, also filed a separate application, seeking to change the guilty plea of the companies.
Brigg’s lawyer, Ige Asemudara, contended on Wednesday that the application must be heard and determined by the judge before any further step could be taken in the case.
The EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, disagreed with Asemudara, arguing that the application should be heard and determined at the end of the whole trial.
This, he said, was in line with Section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of 2015.
“I apply that the trial should continue,” he said.
Ruling, Justice Kuewumi held that the application would be heard and determined before the case would continue.
“Section 396 (2) which says the delivery of the ruling shall be considered at the point of judgment does not apply to this type of application,” he said.
He adjourned until December 12 for the hearing of pending applications.