The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the revocation of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT)’s bail.
Justice Okon Abang, who gave the order in a ruling, also issued a bench warrant for Maina’s arrest “anywhere he is sighted.”
Maina (1st defendant) was arraigned before Justice Abang, on Oct. 25, 2019, by the EFCC alongside his son, Faisal, and firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd.
Although he is facing 12-counts bordering on money laundering, he had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The former pension reformed boss was on July released from Kuje Prison nine months after his detention.
The court had, on Nov. 25, 2019, admitted Maina to a bail in the sum of N1 billion with two sureties who must be serving senators.
The judge ruled that the two sureties, who must be prepared for a N500 million bond each, must always be in court with the defendant at each adjourned date.
He added that the sureties should not have a criminal case pending in any court and must have landed property fully developed in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse II, Katampe or Central Business Districts of Abuja, with Certificate of Occupancy attached as evidence.
He also ruled that the senators though would always come to the court at every adjourned date, the lawmakers only needed to come and sign a court register that would be opened at the registry, among other terms.
The judge said the conditions were hinged on the anti-corruption agency’s allegations that Maina had multiple international passports and that prior to his arrest, he sneaked into the country from Niger Republic, among others.
But due to his inability to meet the bail terms, Justice Abang, on Jan. 29, further varied the bail conditions.
Abang reduced Maina’s bail condition from N1 billion to N500 million with a surety in the like sum who must be a serving senator as opposed to the earlier order of producing two serving senators.
Sen. Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South Senatorial District where Maina hails from, decided to depose to an affidavit to always bring him to court at every adjourned date or forfeit the N500 million bail bond.
However, after Maina’s release, he had been absent from court since the trial resumed on Sept. 29, even though Ndume was always in court.
The senator had, on Oct. 2, told the court that he did not know Maina’s whereabouts.
At the resumed trial on Wednesday, the EFCC’s Lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, said though the matter was for further cross examination of PW6, “in view of the absence of the 1st defendant (Maina) in court, we apply that the matter should proceed in his absentia.”
“This application is brought pursuant to Section 352(4) of ACJA 2015.
“It our humble submission that from this provision, there are only two conditions to be met for the grant of the application.
“First, the defendant who is absent from court is on bail and he is absent without reasonable explanation .
“Secondly, there shall be two court sittings without the presence of the defendant and without reasonable explanation,” he said.
Abubakar argued that Maina was released on bail by this the court and in disregard of the court order, he had absented himself without reasonable explanation to at least four adjournment.
According to him, the 1st defendant was absent from court on Sept. 29, Sept. 30th, Oct. 2 and Oct. 19.
“We submit that on all these four occasions, this court had ruled that the absence of the 1st defendant from court on those days was without reasonable explanation,” he reminded.
The lawyer also applied for the revocation of his bail and issuance of bench warrant for his arrest.
Abubakar, in addition, applied that Ndume, who stood as surety for him, should forfeit the bail bond and the landed property, and that if he was unable to comply, he should be remanded until he was able to meet the terms.
He said he relied on Section 179(1) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 in making the application.
“I rely on making this submission on the record of this court and the submission made by my learned colleague on the last adjourned date.
“We urge this honourable court to grant these applications,” he said.
Mark Agbo, Counsel to Maina, said though he was not opposed to the anti-graft agency’s plea for his client to be tried in absentia, he disagreed on the applications for his bail revocation and forfeiture of bail bond.
“We submit that this is a court of record and an application ought to have been filed on bail revocation and forfeiture of bail bond,” he said.
However, Justice Abang cut in, telling him that he had earlier ruled on that.
“I have ruled on this in the last adjourned date that the application can come orally. So don’t take us back counsel,” he said.
Agbo then tendered an apology for his submission.
The judge then directed the registrar to ask Ndume the whereabouts of Maina.
“My lord, since the Oct. 19 the court adjourned the case and graciously gave me up till today to produce the 1st defendant, I continued searching for him, seeking the assistance of security agencies and anybody that could give me intelligence about his whereabouts but I could not locate him.
“In my effort, I put out a search in Niger Republic where he was one time said to be residing.
“But there was no evidence that he was there. I also try to reach out to his mother who is said to be living in Kaduna through his uncle who stood as surety to him when he was in prison and assured me that he would be in court.
“I also reach out to his son who promised me, as at last sitting, that his father would be here. But he did not turn up.
“My lord, I continue to search for him because I stood as a surety and it is my responsibility to bring him to court,” the lawmaker told the court.
He pledged to continue the search for Maina should the court grant his request.
Ndume, however, begged the court to give him the opportunity to bring his legal team in the next adjourned date to defend him based on the EFCC’s application.
“Now that the prosecutors are putting in application that affects me, I want to appeal that part that affects me be served on me so that I can brief my lawyers to stand for me in this honourable court,” he said.
Reacting, Abubakar, who reluctantly agreed with Ndume, said since the senator knew that the sitting would be coming up, he should have come along with his legal team.
“Although the matter was adjourned since Oct. 19 till today which is a period of one month
“The surety was coming to this court this morning and knew that he has not found the 1st defendant, he should have made arrangement for legal representation.
“However, though he is not a defendant in the overall interest of justice. I shall reluctantly concede, only to the extent that it relates to his own issue,” he said.
Also, Agbo prayed the court to give Ndume another opportunity to make arrangement for his legal representation.
In his ruling, Justice Abang, said it was disheartening that Joe Gadzama, SAN, who represented Maina earlier was not in court to see that the defendant he canvassed for had jumped bail.
“The court took a risk in granting the 1st defendant a bail.
“I have to consider the competing rights of the parties in granting him a bail,” he said.
The judge restated that that was the reason he gave the condition that a senator who has a stake in the affairs of the country, must stand as Maina’s surety.
He said the lawmaker even deposed to an affidavit on May 5 to always produce the defendant in court.
“He was not in court for four consecutive times. It cannot be like this forever,” he said.
The judge said the court’s decision to have four adjournments before now was not borne out of cowardice but out of maturity.
“The defendant cannot hold the court to ransom,” he added.
He, therefore, granted the EFCC’s application for Maina’s bail revocation and ordered for his arrest warrant.
“The bail is hereby revoked and a bench warrant is issued for his arrest anywhere he is found, even outside the shores of this country,” he held.
Justice Abang, who granted that Maina’s trial should continue in absentia, gave the opportunity for Ndume to bring his counsel to court in the next adjourned date.
The judge then adjourned the matter until Nov. 23 at the instance of Sen. Ndume for him to show cause why he should not be remanded in prison and why he should not forfeit the bail bond.
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