Maina Appears in Court on Wheelchair

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, was thursday adjourned till November 21 to enable officials of the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCS) to 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 Limited, allegedly linked to him on a 12-count criminal charge bordering on corruption and money laundering.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, but the trial Judge, Justice Okon Abang, ordered his remand in the Kuje Correctional Centre pending the hearing and determination of his bail application.

Justice Abang had at the last proceedings adjourned to November 7 for the Deputy-Comptroller of the NCS in charge of Medical and Welfare to submit a personal report on Maina’s health situation and report to the court on the next proceedings.

Abang was also expected to deliver his ruling on the bail application on same November 7.

When the matter was called up for hearing, counsel to the prosecution, Mohammed Abubakar, informed the court of a letter signed by the Deputy Comptroller in charge of Medical and Welfare, NCS, 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 (yesterday).

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 Centre.

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 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 with a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited, allegedly linked to 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 second defendant, Common Input Properties and 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 who were staff of two new generation banks,  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 were Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal.

In 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 one of the  accounts.

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 $1.822million into the account.

In count 11, EFCC told the court that without going through any financial institution, the defendant paid a cash sum of $1.4million to purchase a property in Abuja.

The prosecution maintained that the 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.