Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The trial of Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman, defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTM) suffered an abrupt adjournment on Thursday at the Federal High Court following his failing health condition.
Meanwhile, Justice Okon Abang has accused the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) of colluding with Maina and his legal team to frustrate the trial.
When the trial resumed before Justice Okon Abang yesterday, Maina who was seated at the extreme of the crowded courtroom was assisted by two personnel of the Nigeria Correctional Service in an attempt to walk into the dock.
But having noticed the development, Justice Abang ordered that Maina should be allowed to remain in his position, which ruled, will be the dock for the proceeding.
However, when proceedings had commenced, the attention of the Judge was drawn to the deteriorating health condition of Maina by his counsel, Francis Oronsaye.
Consequently, Justice Abang stood down proceedings for 20 minutes to enable Maina to take his medication.
However, drama unfolded when the court resumed proceedings as counsel to the second defendant in the case, Common Input Property and Investment Limited, Adeola Adedipe urged the court to resolve two issues before proceeding with the case.
The two issues, according to Adedipe are the ruling on the pending bail application of the fisrt defendant (Maina) and the assessment of the medical report on Maina by the Court, to ascertain the health status.
Adedipe submitted that proceedings with the trial without ruling on the health condition of Maina as well as his back application would render the proceedings a nugatory at the Court of Appeal.
On their part, counsel for Maina, Francis Oronsaye and that of the prosecution, Mohammed Abubakar said they were ready for trial.
But shortly after their submissions, Maina who was being sandwiched between personnel of the Nigeria Correction Centre, Abuja, and family members almost collapsed in court.
Following the development, his counsel, Oronsaye asked the court to adjourned the proceedings and to also vacate the Friday date fixed for the trail to enable him attend to his health.
According to him, ” My Lord when the court rose at my instance, the first defendant condition went worse. I will be craving the indulgence of the court that proceedings be adjourned to sometimes next week and for tomorrow’s date be vacated to enable him take proper medication.”
Responding to the two applications, the prosecution counsel, Abubakar accused the counsel for the 2nd defendant of “being more Catholic than the Pope.”
He submitted that the two issues raised by the counsel to the 2nd defendant did not relate to his client.
In any event, Abubakar submitted that the submission of the 2nd defence counsel, were not the true position of the case as the matter was last adjourned for continuation of trial.
On the application for adjournment made by Maina’s counsel, Abubakar said he was not opposed to it.
In his ruling, Justice Abang frowned at the conduct of counsel for the 2nd defendant, Adedipe which he said amounted to “threatening the court.
Abang held that it did not lie on the mouth of counsel to submit that proceedings will be nullify by the court of Appeal if certain conditions laid by him are not followed.
“It means that he has threatened the court. This line of submission is highly unethical and contemptuous.
“No counsel, no matter his status at the bar has the right to threatened the court. It means counsel is directing the court on how to conduct it’s proceedings.
“I can deal with him summarily under the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. I know that there is a Court of Appeal to review my decision and it is not in the place of counsel to remind me and instil fear on the court.
Abang thereafter shifted attention to Nigeria Correction Centre, Abuja, accusing it of colluding with Maina and his legal team to frustrate the trial.
He noted the Medical Director of the Centre had on November 7, 2019 requested for one week to produce detail medical report on Maina but has woefully failed to produce it.
“Since then, the Centre has failed to comply with order of court for upward period of 15 days in a highly contentious matter.
“The Nigeria Correctional Center is compounding the issues before the court. I cannot interfer in the health status of the first defendant beacuse I am not a medical doctor.
“They have adopted a legal stategy to frsutrate proceedings. Even as of today, there is no medical report on the first defendant placed before the court.
He warned that any further attempt to frustrate proceedings by anybody would not be tolarated “as I will direct the security personnel to remove such person or individual from court and proceed with the case.”
Meanwhile, the case has been adjourned to November 25 at the instance of the parties.