Senator Ali Ndume, on Monday, told the Federal High Court, Abuja that some prominent Nigerians prevailed on him to stand as surety for Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT). Ndume made the statement while responding to Justice Okon Abang on the whereabouts of Maina just as he was given a deadline to produce Maina.
At the resumed trial on Monday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, said though the matter was fixed for trial continuation, the 1st defendant (Maina) was still not in court. Abdullah said Maina has been absent for trial without any explanation and that has hindered the continuation of the smooth trial of this case.
Abdullah, therefore, appealed to the court to move three applications. He said, “Our three applications are: one, we will request this court to revoke the bail of the defendant.” “Two, we request the court to direct the distinguished senator to pay the sum of N500 million bail bond which he entered with his cognizance and three, to commence trial in absentia and subject to court’s convenience, we are ready to move these applications”.
Justice Okon Abang thereafter asked Maina’s counsel “Where is your defendant,” responding, Oronsaye said: “The information we have is that the defendant was admitted in hospital after the surgery. He said he was undergoing treatment after the surgery and the location was not disclosed.”
The lawyer, however, opposed the EFCC’s prayer, asking for Maina’s bail revocation. He said, “If my colleague wishes to make application for revocation of bail, he should file his papers and we will respond accordingly my lord. My lord, the liberty of the defendant is an issue and we submit that utmost care ought to be taken before such liberty is tampered with, especially as the law still presumes him innocent”.
Abdullah then said he was not making a fresh application except the request that Maina should be tried in absentia, which is in accordance with Section 352(4) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. “We have already made application before this court. We invite the court to see its record of 02 October 2020.
“The court did make observation that the defendant had absented himself from trial without reasonable explanation but graciously adjourned the matter for the defendant to come to court and face his trial. So we are only reiterating the argument of 02 October 2020.”
Justice Abang turned to Senator Ndume and asked him about Maina’s whereabouts. Responding, Ndume said: “My lord, I understand that the defendant is in Abuja and I did all I can to locate him without any definite result. My lord, I am constraint because I can’t take the law into my hand. I had reported to the DG SSS, the AIG of Police Investigation; I even wrote to police commissioner and I also reported the case to DPO of Jabi where the defendant resides. But my lord, even if I see Maina today, I can’t force him to come to court. I am appealing to u to issue a warrant on him”.
Justice Abang then told Ndume that if he issued a warrant of arrest on Maina, Ndume would be remanded going by the law. Ndume responded that: “I don’t mind my lord. My concern is to have him in court so that I can continue my life.”
Ndume then narrated that he had only met Maina once in his life before he decided to stand as his surety for him in prison, and how he was pressured to take such decision. He said, “As a senator serving him (Maina), his family, wife, mother and uncle appealed to me to stand as a surety. I went to prison to confirm for myself whether he was actually sick and the prison officers told me that he was actually sick and appealed to me to be his surety so that he could have access to medical attention.”
It took me eight months my lord to take that decision. In fact, I had to be given an indemnity by his uncle; signed by me, him and a lawyer that Maina would always be in court. But now I went to Maitama Hospital to check their record, I went to Abuja Clinic, I went to the house he is purported to be living in Jabi, Abuja, but Maina is nowhere to be found. Ndume told the court that the development showed Maina had no intention to come to court.
Ndume said, this is one of the professional hazards we have to face as lawmakers representing the good, the bad and the ugly. If I was not a serving senator, I wouldn’t have course to stand as surety for Maina. Maina, who claimed to be ill, had recently released a video clip which went viral on social media about his state of health but he was nowhere to be found.
According to Ndume, he (Maina) said I came to the court to lie against him, even calling his lawyers names. “I am helpless before you my lord. I appeal that such innocent citizens like me holding a public office for over one million people should not be subjected to this,” he said.
Justice Abang, who restated that if he ordered Maina’s arrest, the senator too would have to be remanded, said he would give him another opportunity to produce the defendant. “It is what the law says because I have been trying to accommodate you as distinguished senator,” he said.
Abang also asked Maina counsel, Oronsaye about his view. “I took a risk to admit him to bail. Let him not judge himself. He is putting the senator in a difficult situation. What is your view?” Oronsaye said, it is a sad development that things are in this way. “We are also doing our best to get him (Maina) to come to court my lord. We will also do our best to see that he comes to court”.
Justice Abang, said he was inclined to grant another adjournment in the overall interest of justice and gave Senator Ndume 21 days’ grace to produce Maina in court.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter until 18 November 2020.
Read previous news about the ongoing trail of Maina here
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