By Alex Enumah
The trial of former Chairman of the Pension Reformed Task Team, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, was on Monday stalled for the fourth consecutive time.
However, unlike three previous occasions when the trial was stalled by Maina’s absence, the failure of Monday’s proceedings to go on was due to the absence of the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang.
Maina is standing trial on a 12-count criminal charge bordering on fraud and money laundering, amongst others.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned him on October 25, 2019, alongside his son, Faisal, and Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, a firm said to be owned by him.
Maina, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was however admitted to bail in the sum of N500 million and a surety in like sum who must be a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At Monday’s scheduled trial, the counsel to the parties as well as Maina’s bail surety, Senator Ali Ndume, were all in court at about 9am but Justice Abang and Maina were not in court.
Maina’s case was listed as number two for the day’s proceedings.
However, about an hour later, one of the court registrars announced that the day’s sitting would not be holding.
“The court is indisposed and all criminal cases slated for today will be adjourned until tomorrow, Tuesday, including the case between the federal government and Abdulrasheed Maina,” the registrar said.
For sometimes now, the trial of Maina has been unable to make headway owing to his absence in court.
On October 2, Maina’s lawyer, Mr Fancis Oronsaye, had informed the court that the first defendant was not in court because of an undisclosed illness and asked the court for an adjournment.
Before October 2, both Maina and Ndume were not in court on September 29 and the matter was adjourned till September 30.
Oronsaye had told the court that his client was at Maitama Hospital where he was receiving treatment.
Although, Ndume was in court on September 30, to sign the court register in line with the bail conditions, Maina was however not in court, thereby forcing another adjournment on the court.
Before the court adjourned to Monday, Justice Abang had ordered Ndume to produce Maina in the next adjourned date or face the consequences.
The order was sequel to Ndume’s claim that he does not know the whereabouts of Maina.
The lawmaker had claimed that he made effort to track Maina down through the commissioner of police, FCT.
He said the outcome of the police effort to track him down yielded result as they were able to discover his residence in Jabi area of Abuja.
“I do not know his residence in Abuja but I know his residence in Kaduna,” he said.
The senator said he had not gone to his house since Maina’s wife gave him assurance that he would be in court for the day’s proceeding.
He, however, enjoined the court to give him time to produce Maina in court.
EFCC’s Lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, opposed the plea made by Oronsaye and Ndume.
Abdullah said though Oronsaye said Maina was ill and bedridden, the EFCC’s investigation revealed that Maina was not a patient at Maitama General Hospital.
Abdullah, who urged the court to take judicial notice of the events, said the development showed that Maina had jumped bail.
He accordingly asked the court to revoke Maina’s bail and also order the committal of Ndume to Correctional Centre or forfeit the N500 million bail bond which was used to secure Maina’s release.