The absence of Abdulrasheed Maina, ex-Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, stalled his trial continuation.
When the matter was called by the court registrar, counsel for Maina, Francis Oronsaye, tendered an apology on behalf of his client to Justice Okon Abang.
“We apologise for the absence of the first defendant my lord,” Oronsaye said.
However, Justice Abang, who was unhappy about the development, said he would not record Oronsaye’s statement.
Abang then asked the court registrar if Maina’s surety, Sen. Ali Ndume, was in court to sign the court register as part of the bail conditions.
“I want to know if the surety is in court or sign the register. For the court record, I want to know if the surety, the distinguished Senator Ali Ndume, is in court now or before 9am to sign the register in line with court order on bail conditions,” he said.
The judge asked the court registrar: “Do you know the surety?”
“I do not know him. Nobody approached us to introduce himself as distinguished Sen. Ali Ndume or signed the register as ordered by the court,” the registrar said.
Oronsaye, who apologised, said Maina was “unavoidably absent today owing to the fact that we were informed by the authority of Maitama Hospital via a letter sent to us and we have equally forwarded the letter to the court.”
“Have you received any letter registrar,” Justice Abang asked.
“No, my lord,” he responded.
The judge also asked Maina’s counsel if he received a verifying affidavit where such letter was exhibited.
Although he did not answer the question directly, Oronsaye said: “We have filed an affidavit on same and filed on the prosecution.”
The judge, however, told him that he could only consider his submission if the letter was placed before the court.
“But my register said the letter has not been placed before the court,” citing Supreme Court decision.
Oronsaye therefore asked for an adjournment for trial continuation.
The EFCC counsel, Farouk Abdullah, told the court that the matter was adjourned in the last sitting for trial continuation, “particularly the continuation of cross examination of PW6. PW6 is available.”
“However, due to the absence of the defendant and the application made by counsel for defendant, we will not oppose the application for adjournment,” he said.
Justice Abang then adjourned the matter until September 30 for trial continuation which he said would be from day to day, except in the event of a public holiday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Maina was, in late July, released from Kuje Prison nine months after his detention.
Maina, who was arraigned before Justice Abang, on October 25, 2019, by the anti-graft agency, alongside his son, Faisal, and firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd., had been in detention since the period.
NAN reports that the ex-Pension Reform boss, through his lawyer, Joe Gadzama, SAN, had, on June 23, informed the court that Sen. Ndume, representing Borno South, had decided to stand as surety for him.
Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, had, in a statement on June 24, also admitted standing as surety for Maina.
He revealed that it took him six months of painful consideration to agree to be a surety for the ex-Pension boss, and that it was part of the cross he had to carry as Maina’s elected senator.
“It was a hard decision I had to make because I have a duty to represent the good, the bad and the ugly of Borno South,” he said.
Justice Abang had, on January 28, varied Miana’s bail conditions, following his inability to meet the bail terms granted him on November 26, 2019.
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.
The judge ruled that the surety, who should not have a criminal case pending in any court, must have a landed property fully developed in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse II, Katampe or Central Business Districts of Abuja, with Certificate of Occupancy attached as evidence.
Abang also ruled that the senator, though would always come to the court at every adjourned date, the lawmaker only needed to come and sign a court register that would be opened at the registry, among other terms.
Although Maina is charged with 12 counts bordering on money laundering, he had, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.