Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the remand of former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdul-Rasheed Maina in the Correctional Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service, in Kuje, Abuja, and his son, Faisal Abdul-Rasheed in police custody.
The order was made following their arraignment by the federal government before Justice Okon Abang in Abuja on Friday. Maina was arraigned alongside a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, allegedly linked to him.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had slammed a 12 count criminal charge bordering on corruption and money laundering against the former pension reform team boss and his company.
Though he entered a plea of not guilty to all the charges, Justice Abang however ordered his remand in the Kuje Correctional Centre pending the hearing and determination of his bail application slated for November 19, 2019.
The prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar had informed the court that he was ready to call his first witness. But counsel to Maina, Ahmed Raji, SAN, drew the court’s attention to the bail application filed by the defendant on October 22, which he had filed prior to the arraignment.
In a swift response, prosecution counsel opposed the application on grounds that it was incompetent having been filed before arraignment. According to Abubakar, the issue of bail application could only arise if there was an adjournment of the matter.
He further submitted that the prosecution did not file a counter affidavit in opposition to the bail application because it was incompetent, adding that, “anytime the defence counsel file a competent bail application, we will vehemently oppose it”.
In a short ruling, Justice Abang declined to entertain the bail application on the ground that the application was filed prior to Maina’s arraignment. He subsequently fixed November 19 for the hearing on the competence of the bail application.
While the court fixed October 30 for the commencement of Maina’s trial, Justice Abang however directed officials of the Kuje Correctional Centre to allow the defendant access to his lawyers to enable him adequately prepare for his trial which begins next Wednesday.
In a related development, Justice Abang, barely an hour after he ordered the remand of Maina, in a correctional center in Kuje, also ordered the remand of Maina’s son, Faisal Abdul-Rasheed, in the custody of the Nigerian Police Force.
Justice Abang’s decision to remand Faisal in custody of the police was sequel to an oral application by counsel to the prosecution, Mohammed Abubakar.
The EFCC had slammed a three count criminal charge bordering on corruption and money laundering against Faisal.
He was specifically accused of operating fictitious bank accounts and failing to declare some of his assets in his statement to the EFCC. He however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, while counsel to the EFCC prayed the court for a short adjournment to call witnesses in prosecution of the charges, he prayed the court that the defendant be remanded with the police to enable the force conclude its investigation of the defendant.
According to the counsel, the defendant is currently being investigated for illegal possession of firearms. Justice Abang also refused request by Faisal’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe to give a date for hearing of his bail application on the grounds that the court cannot assume jurisdiction on an application not before it.
He subsequently fixed November 6 for commencement of Faisal’s trial.