A Federal High Court on Monday granted an application by Abdulrasheed Maina, ex-Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team, for further variation of bail conditions.
The court further varied the bail conditions eight months after his inability to meet the terms.
Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling, said he was inclined to granting Maina’s prayer on compassionate ground, especially after he had been able to produce a serving senator in the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the ex-Pension Reform boss, through his lawyer, Joe Gadzama (SAN), had on June 23 informed the court that Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial District, had decided to stand as surety for him.
Gadzama said though the condition had been met, the certificate of occupancy of the Abuja property of the senator, which the court slated as a condition, did not bear his name.
The lawyer said the certificate was in the name of the original owner, one Lawan Ahmed.
Gadzama, who stated that Ndume was now the owner of the property, explained that there was an irrevocable letter of attorney (Exhibit G2) signed by the Director of Land in the FCTA, G. Bawa, and addressed to the Registrar of the court to back the claim.
He said: “The power of attorney is irrevocable; the donor cannot get it back.
“That is why it is as good as the certificate of occupancy in this situation.
“It supersedes the certificate because it is latest in time.”
Gadzama also told the court to reconsider the condition that Ndume must always come to court at every adjourned date to sign the court register, considering the state assignment before the lawmaker.
Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, had in a statement on June 24also 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.
According to the lawmaker: “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.”
NAN recalls that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on October 25, 2019 charged Maina and his son, Faisal, before the court alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
Although Maina is charged with 12-counts bordering on money laundering, he had, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
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.
However, Maina had been unable to get a senator as surety for his release until Ndume decided to do so.
At the ruling on Monday, Justice Abang said he had carefully considered the arguments of parties.
Abang noted that it was within the court jurisdiction to either grant bail by vacating the existing conditions or grant new conditions.
Though Gadzama, who is counsel to Maina, described the conditions of the bail as “suffocating and unbearable,” the judge said such submission was baseless going by the facts placed before the court by the EFCC.
He said: “I felt the statement that the conditions was suffocating seems to portray the court as being inhuman in my view.
“I know the court is not inhuman.
“I take the fact of the case the way I understand the law.
“If you consider the fact of this case, you will agree with me because in the affidavit of the defendant (Maina), he said he was ready to fulfill the bail on any condition.”
Besides, Abang stated that in the EFCC argument, Maina was said to be “a flight risk and that he comes into and out of the country through illegal routes.”
He noted that the anti-graft agency argued that “he will jump bail if granted, that he does not reside in the country, and that his international passport does not indicate that he ever travels outside the country through legal means.
The judge said with this development, he had to consider the competing rights of the parties.
Abang said: “And that is why I arrived at a senator in standing surety for the 1st defendant, not somebody who does not have stake in the affairs of this country.
“That is why I said I took a risk in admitting him to bail, based on the weighty allegations by EFCC, which the 1st defendant did not challenge.”
Taking the prayers one after the order in the affidavit deposed to by Maina’s wife, Laila, the judge refused to grant the plea by the senator on coming to sign court register at each adjourned.
The Judge held: “I think the issue of signing registrar has been settled by the surety.
“The court cannot revisit this again.
“The surety has already signed an affidavit of means, especially in Paragraph 9, which he said I shall fulfill the bond of oath.
“Having agreed to come to court with the defendant, this cannot be jettisoned by any person other than Senator Ndume.”
Abang held that Ndume understood clearly what he deposed to in the affidavit of means on May 5.
The judge, therefore, disagreed in the affidavit deposed to by Laila that it might be difficult for the lawmaker to be coming to court at every sitting, describing it as “a documentary hearsay.”
However, Justice Abang granted Maina’s prayer on the acceptance of irrevocable power of attorney as C of O.
He said: “I note here that the name on the C of O is not in the name of Senator Ndume.
“I also note that the certificate of occupancy cannot be issued twice.
“I also note that the applicant cannot wait until the FCT minister signs another certificate in his name.
“I think on compassionate ground, the court will accept the irrevocable power of attorney as condition for a certificate of title.
“This is so because the defendant has met with the main condition of producing a senator.”
Abang warned that if Maina jumped bail in an unlikely event, the court might either order the remand of Ndume in a correctional centre or for the surety to forfeit the penal sum.
The judge also said both penalties might be meted out against the surety if the defendant jumped bail.
He, however, advised Maina not to attempt to jump bail “by putting his surety in embarrassing situation.
“In the light of the humane disposition of the court on compassionate time, there is the need to further vary the already varied conditions for the 1st defendant to meet his nail conditions and stand his trial.”
The judge, therefore, ordered that Item 1(c) in the enrole order be varied.
He ruled that the surety should either produce a certificate of occupancy of a property in the Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II, Katampe District or Central Business District of Abuja signed by relevant department in the FCT or arm himself with irrevocable power of attorney.
He said the investigation officer in the EFCC should ascertain the validity of the power of attorney.
Except with the permission of the court, Abang ruled that Maina “shall not leave the FCT, Abuja, pending the hearing and determination of the charge.”
He then adjourned the matter until July 2 for trial continuation.