Godwin Tsa, Abuja, FCT
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Monday gave Senator Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Nigerian Senate, 21 days to produce the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, in court for trial.
Maina has consistently failed to appear before the court for continuation of his trial on money laundering charges.
Meanwhile, Ndume, who told the court that he had only met Maina once in his life, said three former governors had pressured him to stand surety for him.
He added that being the Senator that represents Maina’s constituency, he accepted to stand as his surety.
He has accordingly pleaded with the court to issue a bench warrant directing security agencies to arrest and produce Maina in court as he did not know his whereabouts.
‘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.
‘Orji Kalu when he was in prison then, Joshua Dariye, former Governor of Taraba, Rev Jolly Nyame, all appealed to me in the prison to assist him.
‘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.
‘This is one of the professional hazards we face as lawmakers, representing the good, the bad and the ugly.
‘If I was not a serving Senator, I wouldn’t have cause to stand as surety,’ Ndume added.
He expressed worry that Maina, who claimed to be ill, had recently released a video clip which went viral on social media about his state of health but refused to make himself available.
‘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,’ Ndume pleaded.
Ndume said he was willing to forfeit his own freedom to ensure that Maina is arrested and produced before the court.
The Senator had while addressing the court as to Maina’s whereabouts on Monday, 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 constrained because I cannot take the law into my hands.
‘I had reported to the DG SSS, the AIG of Police Investigation; I even wrote to the 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 you to issue a warrant on him.’
Justice Okon Abang told Ndume that the legal implication of such an arrest warrant is that he would also be remanded in custody pending when Maina is apprehended.
‘I don’t mind, my lord. My concern is to have him in court so that I can continue my life,’ Ndume responded.
Maina is standing trial on a 12-count criminal charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited.
Before he was released on bail, the former Pensions boss spent over seven months on remand at the Kuje Correctional Centre after Senator Ndume agreed to stand surety for him.
The EFCC alleged that he used the account of the firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2 billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja, FCT.
The prosecution has already opened its case and called witnesses that included bankers and Maina’s relatives, who testified and tendered exhibits in evidence before the court.
Maina, however, has since failed to appear in court for his trial since September 29 and the prosecution has expressed fears that he might have jumped bail.
Senator Ndume had in the October 2 proceedings informed the court that he does not know his whereabouts.
When the trial came up on Monday, Ndume lamented before the court that all his efforts to locate the 1st Defendant had proved abortive.
On his part, prosecution counsel Farouk Abdullah applied for leave of the court to try Maina in absentia.
He also urged the court to not only revoke Maina’s bail but to also direct his surety, Ndume, to pay the sum of N500 million, being the total bail bond.
However, the counsel to Maina, Francis Oronsaye, opposed the application to revoke his client’s bail, though he also admitted not knowing his whereabouts.
‘My lord, the information we have is that the Defendant is admitted in hospital after a surgery. He said he was undergoing treatment after the surgery and the location was not disclosed.
‘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,’ Oronsaye added.
Justice Abang said in his ruling that he was inclined to, in the interest of justice, give Senator Ndume a 21-day grace period to produce the Defendant.
The matter was subsequently adjourned to November 18 for trial.
The EFCC had in a charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019 alleged that the ex-Pensions boss used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.