The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday opposed the application by Abdulrasheed Maina, ex-Chairman, Pension Reforms Task Team, for further variation of his bail conditions.
Counsel to the EFCC, Farouq Abdullahi, told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that the application was unmeritorious.
Earlier, Counsel to Maina, Joe Gadzama (SAN), had prayed Justice Abang to take Maina’s motion for variation of his bail terms before continuation of his trial.
No sooner had the judge granted the request than Gadzama hinted that his client had met all the bail conditions ordered by the court except one.
He told the court that Senator Ali Ndume had decided to stand as surety for the ex-Pension boss.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the EFCC had on October 25 charged Maina and his son, Faisal, before the court alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
Although Maina was 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, 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.
Gadzama, while presenting another motion before Justice Abang for further bail variation of the defendant, on Tuesday, said the motion was dated June 10 and filed same date.
He argued: “The application was filed pursuant to Sections 158, 165, 167, 168(b), 173, 492(3) of ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice Act) and Section 35, 36 of the constitution.
“We have attached affidavit comprising 20 paragraphs sworn to by Laila Abdulrasheed Maina, his wife.
“We have several attached Exhibits from A to G2.
“We have a written address in support and I adopt the written address as our argument.”
The lawyer said his client was grateful for the earlier bail granted him.
Gadzama added: “We came back again, the honourable ourt granted a variation, reducing two senators to one.
“But the applicant could not meet the condition.”
According to him, in a desperate move to get freedom, we filed an appeal at Court of Appeal.
“He was able to get Senator Ndume who agreed to stand as surety.
“We now withdrew the appeal by filing notice of discontinuous (Exhibit E).”
Gadzama said since they could not come for bail variation with a pending appeal, “so we withdrew this from Court of Appeal to clear the coast.”
According to the lawyer, the 1st defendant has met all the conditions except one, which is that the surety must have a certificate of occupancy to cover the landed property.
He told the court that Ndume had submitted a certificate of occupancy to cover the property but that the certificate was in the name of the original owner, one Lawan Ahmed.
“It is in the name of Lawan Ahmed but the owner of the property today is Senator Ali Ndume, who purchased it from Ahmed,” he said.
The counsel 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 Federal High 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.
“This becomes a valid title you can tender in evidence.”
Gadzama said he believed that it was the joy of the court to see Maina enjoying the bail it earlier granted to him.
He reminded that the only reason Maina, who came into the court in crutches, was still in detention was that the order of the court said what must be tendered “has to be certificate.
“And except my lord amends this, we have two options: to rush to Court of Appeal or come back to this court, which we have done.”
He urged Abang to temper justice with mercy.
He said: “My statement is tantamount to an oath.
“My lord, this gentleman is very, very sick.
“I am surprised he is at court today.
“He needs all kinds of physicians to see him: Ophthalmologist because he cannot see well and many others.
“It is in the interest of the parties and public, whose funds was alleged to have been tampered with, to live to stand his trial whichever way the judgment goes.”
Gadzama argued that the counter affidavit by the EFCC was unnecessary.
He said: “I was surprised to have seen a counter affidavit from the prosecution because I don’t think this is a matter to file a counter in any case because it has not counter any of our assertions or facts.
“This court has discretion to vary the conditions as it has done several times.
“We urge the court to be magnanimous to further vary the bail on this one outstanding condition yet to be met.”
The EFCC’s counsel said the commission filed a nine-paragraph counter affidavit on June 16 with one exhibit (Exhibit EFCC1) and deposed to by a staff of the complainant.
The lawyer argued that the power of attorney did not convey a land title.
Abdullahi said: “My lord, we submit that a power of attorney does not convey a title.
“In the case of FCT, it is only the president that can allocates land to an individual.
“My lord. the FCT minister exercises this power on behalf of the president.
“Therefore, no individual, who has enjoyed the power of allocation from the minister, can allot to himself the power of the minister to further allocate that land or further transfer that land to another.
“It is only the minister that can give consent to transfer of land from one individual to another.
“A power of attorney means that an individual is giving another individual or corporation the power to act on his behalf.”
However, Justice Abang interjected, saying: “But the counsel said power of attorney is irrevocable.”
Abdullahi replied: “I agree.
“You can let, lease, keep for himself, you can sell.
“He can exercise all the powers listed in the power of attorney by the donee.
“The power of attorney does not convey title to the donee as the bonafide owner of that land.
“The state does not know him.”
Again, Abdullahi told the court that in paragraph 16 of the affidavit of means or compliance to the requirements of the order of the court, the senator stated that he might not be able to come to the court to sign the register each time the matter comes up.
“Given this deposition, it presupposes that the 1st defendant has not met the conditions imposed by this court,” he said.
The lawyer described the application by Maina as “unmeritorious,” urging the court to dismiss it.
“The conditions of this court should be strictly complied with,” he said.
Justice Abang, after listening to parties in the suit, adjourned the ruling until June 29.