*As former pension task force chair seeks transfer of case to another Judge
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government on Wednesday commenced trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce, Abdulrasheed Maina, on corruption allegations and money laundering.
Maina was on October 25 arraigned alongside a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, allegedly linked with him on a 12 count criminal charge bordering on corruption and money laundering.
Though Maina pleaded not guilty to all the charges, Justice Abang however ordered his remand in the Kuje Correctional Center pending the hearing and determination of his bail application slated for November 19, 2019 and also fixed October 30 for commencement of his trial.
When the matter was called on Wednesday, Maina prayed the court to transfer his case to another judge on the grounds that he was not comfortable with the current judge, Justice okon Abang.
Maina had alleged that the judge had in the last sitting aggravated his blood pressure by his (Judge) remarks.
Maina made the appeal through his counsel, Joe Kyari-Gadzama, SAN, at the commencement of his trial on Wednesday.
He alluded to the proceedings of October 25, 2019 where Justice Abang had told the court registrar to tell him (Maina) to stop looking at him (Justice Abang) so at to enable him concentrate on delivering his ruling on the bail application filed by the defendant.
“Please I don’t want the 1st defendant to look at me when I am delivering my ruling so that I can concentrate,” Justice Abang had said.
However, the court registrar in trying to comply with the Judge’s directive, further compounded the matter when he had asked Maina to look at the prosecution, who brought him to court.
Irked by the misrepresentation, Justice Abang, cautioned the registrar against such act
The judge later continued with his ruling, ordering the EFCC to remand the defendant in the Nigerian Correctional Service centre and adjourned for today, October 30.
At Wednesday proceedings, Maina signalled his intention to talk while in the dock but Justice Abang overruled him since he was represented at the court by Gadzama.
“My Lord, the 1st defendant told me I should tell the court, on his behalf, that on October 25 of this month, he was before the court and while the court was on, the court asked him not to look at him.
“And he wondered why he should not look at him since he was not the only one that appeared before the court that day,” Gadzama said.
He said as a result of the judge’s remark, Maina told him that his high blood pressure rose astronomically, and he felt so bad with the comment as if he had been convicted already.
Maina counsel, therefore, told Justice Abang that his client told him he would seek the indulgence of the court if the case could be reassigned to another judge.
However, the request was turned down with the judge directing the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, to open it’s case by calling witnesses.
The prosecution counsel, M. S. Abubakar, called the first witness, Mairo Mohammed, a banker admitted opening naira and dollar accounts for Maina.
She admitted knowing Maina. “Yes my Lord, his name is Abdulrasheed Maina. We have a bank-customer relationship, and also, he is a junior brother to my late husband.
“He is my brother in-law, and I know the company called Common Input Property and Investment Ltd.
“I approached Maina when he was chairman Police Pension Task Force and solicited for deposit, and he gave the bank a deposit of N3bn in 2011, ànd the funds were moved to Treasury Single Account with CBN around 2012.
“In a bid to grow my deposit, I also approached Maina for more deposits and I opened about 12 accounts for him and his immediate family” Mohammed told the court.
The matter has been adjourned to November 4 for continuation of trial.