*As former pension reform boss appears in court on wheelchair
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, was on Thursday adjourned till November 21 to enable officials of the Nigeria Correctional Services, carry out a comprehensive medical investigation on the health of Maina and report back to the court.
Maina, who was brought to court on a wheelchair, 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.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, however trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, ordered his remand in the Kuje Correctional Center pending the hearing and determination of his bail application.
Justice Abang had at the last proceedings adjourned to today, November 7 for the Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Correctional Services in charge of Medical and Welfare, to submit a personal report on Maina’s health situation and report to the court on the next sitting.
Abang was also expected to deliver his ruling on the bail application same November 7.
When the matter was called, counsel to the prosecution, Mohammed Abubakar, informed the court of a letter signed by the Deputy Comptroller in charge of Medical and Welfare, Nigeria Correctional Services, H. O. Kori, asking for a period of one week to carry out a comprehensive examination on Maina and report back to the court.
Abubakar subsequently prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable the official submit its report.
The prosecution lawyer said though he was ready to go ahead with the trial as his witnesses were in court but would prefer to wait for the outcome of the report which would show whether Maina is fit or not to attend trial.
However Justice Abang informed the court that ruling on Maina’s bail application was not ready due to the heavy workload of the court, adding that the new date for ruling would be made available to parties at the close of work today.
Maina’s health condition was brought to the attention of the court through a letter by an official of the Correctional Service at the proceedings of November 5.
Part of the letter read in the open court by Justice Abang said, “The first defendant is indisposed, unable and not fit to appear in court but would do so when his condition improves”.
He said the letter was signed by one Idowu Ajayi, a medical officer at the Correctional Service Center.
The court however did not reveal the nature of Maina’s sickness that made him unable to attend his trial.
However Maina’s appearance on a wheelchair on Thursday gave Justice Abang some concern.
“I noticed that the first defendant was in court in a wheel chair, I didn’t order him to do so. I am deeply touched when I saw him this morning”, he said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina, along side a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, allegedly linked with him on a 12-count criminal charge, bordering on fraud, abuse of public office and money laundering of about N2 billion.
Aside allegation that the former PRTT boss used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, EFCC, in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that he used a firm that was charged as the 2nd defendant, Common Input Properties &Investment Limited, to launder funds, part of which was used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It was also alleged that Maina recruited his relatives that were staff of both the United Bank for Africa, UBA, and Fidelity Bank Plc, to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channeled.
The prosecution told the court that contrary to financial regulations, the two banks, opened phony accounts for the defendant, without conducting due diligence to ascertain the true identities of the owners.
It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal.
Count three of the charge, EFCC alleged that the defendant had some time in 2014, took possession of the sum of N171.91million that was paid into the UBA account.
He was in count four, alleged to have taken possession of $360, 588.27, knowing that same was proceed of unlawful activity. Maina was alleged to have in 2012, opened account number 4510002782 with his pseudo name, Dr. Fisal, and subsequently wired $1.822m into the account.
In count 11, EFCC told the court that without going through any financial institution, the defendant paid a cash sum of $1.4m to purchase a property in Abuja.
The prosecution maintained that defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.