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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Court orders ex-pension boss, Maina’s arrest and trial in absentia


Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, revoked the bail he granted to Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman, Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) and issued at warrant for his arrest; stating additionally that he would continue his trial in absentia.

The ruling followed an application of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to the effect that the bail granted Maina, who is facing a 12-count charge of operating fictitious bank accounts, corruption, fraud and money laundering to the tune of N2 billion, should be revoked as a consequence for continuously failing to appear in court.

Maina, as noted by prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar has been absent in court for four consecutive times while his surety, Senator Ali Ndume has been helpless in bringing him to court for trial, sometimes on account of unsubstantiated claims of ill health from his counsel.

Abubakar further noted at today’s sitting, that, “The first defendant was released on bail condition by this honorable court but in disregard for this court, he has absented himself on four occasions. On all these occasions, the court ruled that the absence of the first defendant has no reasonable excuse.” He therefore prayed the court to revoke Maina’s bail, issue a bench warrant against him and for him to be tried in absentia.

Drawing from his request for the bail revocation, Abubakar further asked that Maina be made to forfeit his N1billion bail bond, while his surety, Senator Ali Ndume, should forfeit his N500 million bail bond and to be remanded in prison custody for failing to provide Maina as required in the bail bond.

It could be recalled that the court on October 2, 2020, gave Ndume a 21-day grace period to produce Maina in court, which expired today, without any success from him. He, however, formally applied for adjournment to enable his counsel make intervention on his behalf.

“The court gave me up to today to produce the defendant. I continued searching for him, seeking the assistance of security agencies and anybody that can give me reasonable intelligence, but I could not locate him. I put out a search in Niger Republic, but he was not there. I tried to reach out to his mother in Kaduna through his uncle who stood as a surety for him when he was in prison. I also reached out to the son, who promised me at the last sitting that his father will be here but he did not turn up. Now that the prosecution has put in an application that affects me, I want to appeal that the application be serve unto me so that I can brief my lawyer,” Ndume said.

In granting the prayers of the prosecution against Maina, Justice Abang noted that, “The fact that this matter has been adjourned at least on four occasions to enable the defendant Abdulrasheed Maina turn a new leaf, show compassion and jettison all contemptuous conducts is not borne out of fear; it is not borne out of cowardice; it is borne out of maturity and restraint.

“The law must be followed. The defendant is not in court and no reasonable excuse offered for his absence. The defendant cannot hold the court to ransom. The bail of the defendant, earlier granted on 25 November 2019, varied on 28 January 2020, further varied on 29 June 2020 is hereby revoked. Bench Warrant is hereby ordered for the arrest of the defendant anywhere he may be found and brought before this court. The complainant in this matter, that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall effect the arrest of the defendant anywhere he may be found and brought before this court without delay.

“On the issue of trial in absentia, there is no objection and it is hereby ordered that the trial will continue in absentia. A day will be given for trial in absentia upon conclusion of hearing of application made by the surety to be given an adjournment to bring his counsel to court.”

He adjourned the matter till November 23, 2020 for Ndume to show cause why he should not be committed to prison or forfeit his N500 million bond and landed property as stated in paragraph five of his May 5, 2020 affidavit.

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