Senator Mohammed Ndume has expressed frustration over his inability to produce the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT) Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina in court in continuation of his (Maina’s) trial for money laundering.
Ndume, while speaking before a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday, said he was helpless as he has been unable to locate Maina, who claimed to be ill and on admission in a medical facility in Abuja.
The senator, representing Borno South, where Maina hails from, had stood surety for the defendant, endorsed a N500 million bail bond and undertook to ensure he (Maina) attends court throughout the duration of his trial.
But, Maina suddenly stopped attending court since September 29 this year, with his lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, claiming his client was ill.
On October 2, the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang ordered Ndume to produce Maina on the next date, failing which he could be penalized.
At the mention of the case on Monday, lead prosecution lawyer, Farouk Abdullah noted that Maina was absent.
Abdullah sought the court’s permission to apply that the court revokes the bail granted Maina, orders Ndume to pay the N500 bail bond which he signed, and to allow the prosecution to continue trial in Maina’s absence as allowed under Section 352(4) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
When asked about his client’s whereabouts, Oronsaye said: “The information we have is that the defendant is admitted in hospital after the surgery. He (Maina) said he was undergoing treatment after the surgery and the location was not disclosed.”
Oronsaye urged the court to discountenance Abdullah’s suggestions and added: “My lord, the liberty of the defendant is an issue and we submit that utmost care ought to be taken before such liberty is tampered with, especially as the law still presumes him innocent.”
The judge then turned to Ndume, on why Maina was not in court. The Senator said: “My lord, I understand that the defendant is in Abuja and I did all I can to locate him without any definite result. My lord, I am constrained because I can’t take the law into my own hands.
“I had reported to the DG SSS, the AIG of Police Investigation. I even wrote to the Police Commissioner and I also reported the case to DPO of Jabi where the defendant resides. But my lord, even if I see Maina today, I can’t force him to come to court. I am appealing to you to issue a warrant on him.”
When the judge told him that issuing a warrant of arrest would mean Ndume would first be remanded going by the law, the Senator said: “I don’t mind my lord. My concern is to have him in court so that I can continue my life.”
Ndume gave details of how he was prevailed upon by Maina’s relatives and political friends before he agreed to stand surety.
“As a senator serving him (Maina), his family, wife, mother and uncle appealed to me to stand as a surety. I went to prison to confirm for myself whether he was actually sick and the prison officers told me that he was actually sick and appealed to me to be his surety so that he could have access to medical attention.
“Orji Kalu (ex-governor of Abia State), when he was in prison then, Joshua Dariye (ex-Plateau State governor) and former Governor of Taraba, Rev. Jolly Nyame, all appealed to me in the prison to assist him.
“It took me eight months, my lord, to take that decision. In fact, I have to be given an indemnity by his uncle; signed by me, him and a lawyer that Maina would always be in court. He guaranteed, but since that day, I went to Maitama Hospital to check their record, I went to Abuja Clinic, I went to the house he is purported to be living in Jabi, Abuja.
This is one of the professional hazards we have to face as lawmakers representing the good, the bad and the ugly. If I was not a serving Senator, I wouldn’t have cause to stand as surety,” he said.
Ndume said Maina, who claimed to be ill, had recently released a video clip, which went viral on social media about his state of health, but he was nowhere to be found.
He added: “I am helpless before you my lord. I appeal that such innocent citizens like me holding a public office for over one million people should not be subjected to this,” he said.
After listening to Ndume and Oronsaye, Justice Abang said he would give him another opportunity to produce the defendant.
He gave Ndume 21 days’ grace to produce Maina in court.