On Friday, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the closure of the Abdulrasheed Maina case, chairman of the former task force on pension reform.
Judge Okon Abang, who issued the order, also set October 4 for the parties involved to adopt their final written addresses.
Nigeria’s news agency reports that after a final written address is adopted, a case is set for trial.
Maina (1st defendant), who was arrested before Judge Abang on October 25, 2019 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside his company, Common Input Property and Investment Limited (2nd defendant), pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts charge to the limit of money laundering to the tune of 2 billion naira.
He was then remanded in custody at the Kuje Correctional Center.
On January 28, 2019, Judge Abang changed Miana’s bail conditions, following her failure to meet the bail conditions granted to her on November 26, 2019, eight months later.
Abang reduced Maina’s bail condition from 1 billion naira to 500 million naira with a bond of the same sum who must be a sitting senator, as opposed to the previous order to produce two sitting senators, among others.
However, Maina was unable to secure a senator as a surety for his release until Senator Ali Ndume, who represents the Borno Sud Senate District, decided to do so.
He skipped the bond and reportedly fled to the Republic of Niger around September 2020.
On November 18, 2020, the court canceled his bond and ordered his arrest wherever he was.
The court also ordered his trial to continue in absentia.
Her surety, Ndume, was held in Kuje prison for about five days before Maina’s re-arrest.
Maina, who was presented to court on December 4, 2020, has been remanded in custody pending the hearing and final decision in his case.
When the EFCC closed its case on December 9, 2020 after calling nine witnesses, Maina was ordered to open his defense.
Although Maina requested a submission without a dossier, the court on December 21, 2020 ruled out his right to make such a request on the grounds that the former hostel boss had had sufficient time and ease to make the submission but failed to do so. did not.
Maina, who had called only two defense witnesses, had requested a subpoena on 8 March obliging the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; former EFCC interim president Ibrahim Magu, among others, to appear in court and testify in the ongoing case against him.
Furthermore, his first defense witness, Ngozika Ihuoma, in his main testimony alleged that the EFCC under Magu had embezzled 222 assets worth 1.6 trillion naira recovered by the PRTT led by Maina.
Ihuoma alleged that Magu had sold most of the property to his friends and associates.
Maina had only called the second witness, who was still under questioning, before the court ordered her case closed.
Earlier, when the case was called, a Nigerian correctional service officer, Kuje, Emmanuel Orlu, told the court that although Maina was not in court, the former reformed pension boss was in their vehicle at outside the courtroom.
Judge Abang asked the officer why the accused (Maina) had not been brought to court.
The judge ordered the clerk of the court to give a paper to the prison guard to write down his name.
“Monsignor, the accused is in the car outside. He has a problem with both knees, ”said Orlu.
The officer, who acknowledged receipt of the notice of hearing, asked the court if his colleague, who is a medical staff, could speak on his behalf, but the judge refused.
The judge then recorded that Maina was absent in court, warning that proceedings are still taking place in court and not outside the courtroom.
Maina’s lawyer, Abel Adaji, has asked the court for a brief adjournment.
Adaji based his claim on the allegation that the notice of hearing was not served on him in time.
He said: “We just received the Notice of Hearing today.
“Our witness is not even within the jurisdiction.
“We humbly appeal for a very short date.”
The judge then asked him how he learned of the case.
Adaji said: “Monsignor, my learned brother, Anayo Adibe (who is also Maina’s lawyer) informed me this morning that the case was scheduled for further hearing this morning.
“And I didn’t ask how he got the information.”
But EFCC counsel Mohammed Abubakar opposed the adjournment request.
Abubakar said: “Despite the fact that the notice of hearing was not officially served on the defense, according to the lawyer, the presence and the announcement of the appearance by the lawyer for the defendant is an admission against interest.
“This takes particular account of the fact that my lord is on fiat and no longer resides in Abuja as this tribunal is currently being constituted.
“Therefore, efforts should be made to maximize the benefit of the court’s presence by making significant progress in the proceedings in the spirit of ACJA 2015.”
Abubakar also argued that the Notice of Hearing served on Correctional Service was a court order that must be complied with to bring Maina to court.
“It is a violation of the prison administration court order not to bring him to court,” he said.
Abubakar also recalled that the court order that the proceedings should continue in Maina’s absence is still in effect.
“Therefore, although I condemn the failure of the prison authorities to bring the accused before the court, I still submit that the case can take place in his absence,” he insisted.
Abang, who acknowledged that Chief Justice Justice John Tsoho issued an executive order to conclude the case on July 12, recalled that he ordered notices of hearing to be issued to parties and authorities. correctional services on July 13.
“A prison administration officer called Ochenko received the letter on July 13,” Abang said.
He said there was no medical certificate explaining why Maina was not in court.
He said: “Even if there is a certificate, it is only persuasive and does not bind the court based on the Supreme Court ruling.
“The officer said he knew about it and that it was his fault the accused was not in court today.”
The judge then refused to grant Adaji’s request.
NAN, however, confirmed that Maina was seated in the back of the Correctional Service Hilux Van parked in the courthouse.
When the case was called after it was withdrawn as requested by the EFCC lawyer, Adaji told the court that Maina’s second defense witness (DW2) was not in court.
Abubakar then requested that the court exclude DW2’s testimony and that his earlier testimony given on March 11 be struck from the court record since the prosecution would not have the opportunity to cross-examine him, citing Major Hamza’s case. Al-Mustapha against the State.
Abang, who answered Abubakar’s prayer, said his argument was credible and unchallenged.
He said: “Although the official said the defendant was out of court, I wonder what the defendant should do outside of court.
“It may be a legal strategy, but let’s see how it works in its favor.”
The judge, who ordered the DW2 evidence to be erased from the court record, ordered Adaji to call the next witness.
“We have no witnesses in court as the lawyer did not receive notice of the hearing for today’s proceedings,” Adaji replied.
Abubakar, however, argued that Adaji’s presence and announcement of the appearance was proof that he was aware of today’s session.
He further argued that, since Adaji had no other witnesses in court and without further request, “I urge the court to close the defense of the 1st and 2nd defendants and adjourn the case for the adoption of ‘final written addresses’.
When the judge asked Adaji to respond to Abubakar’s submission, he said, “We have no response.
In rendering the decision, Abang noted that “where no apology is offered, no indulgence should be given.
“That’s what the Supreme Court said.”
He described the action of Maina’s lawyer “as a delaying tactic to further thwart the case that has been filed since 2019”.
He said that since Maina had the opportunity to be heard and he had not, he himself should be responsible.
He ruled: “I have no choice but to close the file of the 1st and 2nd defendants in this case.
“I close the file of the 1st and 2nd defendants.
“The parties should therefore file and serve their final written addresses within 21 days. “
The judge then adjourned the case until October 4 for the adoption of final written addresses.