A Federal High Court on Monday foreclosed the right of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, to file a no-case submission.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who refused the right, then ordered Maina to open his defence.
Justice Abang held that Maina has had adequate time and facility to make his no-case submission but failed to do so.
He adjourned the matter until January 26 and 27 for Maina to open his defence.
Earlier, Maina’s counsel, Anayo Adibe, said he will be calling 24 witnesses.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Maina had on December 9 said he would be filing a no-case submission since all the evidence brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were insufficient to establish a prima facie case against him.
However, on the adjourned date, Adibe told the court that he was yet to be given record of proceedings from the day Maina was arraigned to enable him defend his client and while the sitting was ongoing, the ex-pension reformed boss collapsed in the courtroom.
He noted that though the matter was adjourned for him to present the no-case submission, he said he would not be able to continue as planned because the record of proceedings of the court had not been given to them by the court registrar.
He, therefore, asked for an adjournment to enable them get the request for him to make the no-case submission.
However, the EFCC lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, who disagreed with Adibe, said the application for an adjournment and the reason given were “nothing but a delay tactic which also amounts to an application for stay of proceedings.”
Abubakar, who cited a relevant section of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and a Supreme Court authority, urged the court to reject the defence prayer.
Besides, the lawyer argued that though Maina was in court, he said there was a valid and subsisting order of the court for the matter to proceed in his absence
“That decision has not been set aside by this court or superior court. There is also no pending appeal against that decision,” he said.
He said the subsequent apprehension and production of Maina in court pursuant to the bench warrant had not receded the decision of the court for the matter to continue in his absence.
He argued further that the provision of Section 20(3) of the Money Laundering Act 2011 as amended and Section. 19(2C) of the EFCC Establish Act 2004 stipulated that the court shall adopt all legal measures to prevent unnecessary delay and abuse in the matter brought by EFCC before the court against any person, corporate or authority.
Abubakar said the counsel who indicated to make a no-case submission on behalf of the defendant (Maina) was deemed to have evaluated the evidence made by the prosecution and found it not to have sufficiently linked Maina to any of the counts of the charge.
He said: “It is, therefore, a contradictory submission in our humble view for the learned counsel to turn around and say he cannot make a no-case submission because he does not have a record of proceedings.
“These two submissions are mutually exclusive and that one must give way for the other.
“We urge your lordship to discountenance the submission of the counsel and grant our application.”
Abubakar then urged the court to foreclose the right of Maina to make a no-case submission.
The judge called on the court registrar to confirm whether Maina’s counsel made effort to get the record of proceeding.
“A staff from the defendant’s counsel came on Friday, December 18 and we gave them the record of proceedings, the rulings and orders of the court,” the court Registrar responded.
Adibe, however, said though a repeated visit was made to the court last week, he could not get the complete record of proceedings.
According to him: “The proceedings we asked for were those ones that happened when we were not in this matter.”
Adibe said that Abubakar misconstrued his application for adjournment and the reason he gave, saying: “The issue is whether the reasons given by counsel for his inability to address the court on no-case submission is one that is tenable or not.
“Your lordship was gracious enough to make an order for the registry of the court to make the proceedings available
“We are taking custody of the ones given to us but still expecting others.”
The judge, who noted that the defendant had a counsel before now, said what Adibe would have done was to liaise with the former counsel to make available their request.
When the judge asked Maina’s lawyer how many witnesses they had, Adibe said: “We intend to call 24 witness my lord.”
He, however, prayed the court to direct the management of the correctional centre where his client was kept to give Maina adequate medical care.
Abubakar said such application should be formally filed for the anti-graft agency to respond to.
Abang assured that if Adibe filed the application, he would look into it irrespective of the court vacation which begins December 22.
NAN reports that Maina (1st defendant) was arraigned before Justice Abang on October 25, 2019 by the EFCC alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited (2nd defendant).
Maina pleaded not guilty to the 12-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.