Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court has been asked to wash his hands off the trial of former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina over alleged bias.
Maina is standing over allegations bordering on fraud, abuse of public office and money laundering amounting to N2billion.
He was arraigned on October 25, 2019 on a 12-count charge.The prosecution agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has specifically alleged that Maina abused his position as Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team by awarding fictitious contracts for purported biometric enrollment of pensioners, an offense that is punishable under Section 317(read in conjunction with section 316) of the Penal Code Act, Cap532, vol. 4, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, 2007.But in a statement in Abuja, Maina’s kinsmen accused the trial judge of bias and asked him to hands off the case in the interest of justice.The statement was informed by the absence of the Judge on the two days the trial was fixed for continuation after the annual vacation break.Specifically, the trial was to resume on the 29th and 30th of September, 2020 but could not hold following the absence of the judge.The development did not go down well with his kinsmen who expressed worry over his ill health. In a statement through their spokesman, Aliyu Maina, his kinsmen accused Justice Abang of being biased in his treatment of the suit filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
While stating that it is only a healthy person that can face his trial alive, they said “a careful observation of the proceedings so far clearly reveals that the trial judge has descended into the arena of conflict”, noting that on several occasions, Justice Abang had brazzenly teleguided the prosecution team on how to conduct their case in the open court to the detriment of the defence party.Apart from the allegation of tailoring the trial to the huge advantage of the EFCC, they accused the judge of making several prejudicial statements in the open court against the ex-pension boss in a manner that suggests a preconceived judgment.The group further stated that they are of the firm view that the judge would not approach the continued trial with an open mind as his mind is already made up on the case, adding that they have not forgotten in a haste how the judge handed herculean bail conditions on Maina, thereby prolonging his incaceration at the Kuje correctional centre.