Sen. 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 Reformed Task Team (PRTT) while in Kuje Prison.
Ndume disclosed this while responding to Justice Okon Abang’s question on the whereabouts of the ex-pension reformed boss.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports, Ndume, who represents Borno South Senatorial District where Maina hails from, had recently deposed to an affidavit to always bring him to court at every adjourned date or forfeit the N500 million bail bond, nine months after Maina had been unable to meet the bail conditions.
However, after Maina was released in July, he had been absent in court since the trial resumed on Sept. 29.
Maina’s Counsel, Francis Oronsaye, had told the court that his client was in Maitama Hospital where he was undergoing medical treatment.
Although Maina had at several times not been in court, the lawmaker had always attended sittings at every adjourned date.
NAN reports that Ndume told the court, on Oct. 2, that he does not know the whereabouts of Maina after he was absent from court since the trial resumed.
Justice Abang had ordered the senator to produce Maina unfailing in the next adjourned date or he would be forced to grant the EFCC’s prayers to revoke Maina’s bail, among others.
The judge also threatened to grant the anti-graft agency’s prays to make an order for the lawmaker to forfeit the N500 million bail bond to the Federal Government and be remanded in prison pending the time he was able to meet the pledge.
Maina had, on Oct. 8, in a viral video clip on social media claimed that he was nursing a kneel injury in a hospital and would appear in court as soon as his doctor certified him fit to stand his trial.
However, due to the inability of the court to sit since the adjourned date, the matter was fixed for today, Oct. 19, for trial continuation.
At the resumed trial on Monday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s Lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, said though the matter was fixed for trial continuation, the 1st defendant (Maina) was not in court.
According to him, the defendant has absented himself from trial without any explanation and that has hindered the prosecution from continue with the smooth trial of this case. Abdullah, therefore, appealed to the court to move three applications.
“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,” he said.
“Where is your defendant,” the judge asked Maina’s counsel.
Responding, Oronsaye said: “The information we have is that the defendant is 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.
“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,” he said.
Abdullah, who hinted that he was not making a fresh application except the prayer that Maina should be tried in absential, said the request was 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 Oct. 2, 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 Oct 2., 2020,” he said.
When Justice Abang turned to Sen. Ndume, he asked him Maina’s whereabouts.
Responding, the lawmaker 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 cant 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 the senator that if he issued a warrant of arrest on Maina, the lawmaker would be remanded going by the law.
Ndume responded thus: “I don’t mind my lord. My concern is to have him in court so that I can continue my life.”
The lawmaker, who said he had only met Maina once in his life before he decided to stand as his surety in prison, narrated how he was pressured to take such decision.
“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 have to be given an indemnity by his uncle; signed by me, him and a lawyer that Maina would always be in court.
“He guaranteed but since that day, 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,” he said.
Ndume told the court that the development showed Maina had no intention to come to court.
“This is one of the professional hazards we have to have 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,” he said.
The lawmaker said 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 no where 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 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?” he asked Maina’s counsel.
According to Oronsaye, 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,” he said.
Justice Abang, who said he was inclined to grant another adjournment in the overall interest of justice, gave Ndume 21 days’ grace to produce Maina in court.
NAN reports that the EFCC had arraigned Maina (1st defendant) before Justice Abang, on Oct. 25, 2019, alongside his son, Faisal; and firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd.
Although Maina is facing 12-counts bordering on money laundering, he pleaded not guilty to all the charges
Justice Abang adjourned the matter until Nov. 18. (NAN)