By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, said it would on Thursday, consider the merit of an application the former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who is facing trial over his alleged complicity in a N2billion fraud, filed to be released on bail pending his trial.
Trial Justice Okon Abang heard and reserved ruling on the bail application, even though Maina was absent in court.
An officer of the Nigeria Correctional Service Center, Kuje, had shortly after the matter was called up for the continuation of trial, produced a medical report that indicated that the ex-pension boss was seriously sick.
The report, which was signed by one Dr. Idowu Ajayi, further revealed that Maina was receiving medical attention at his detention center. Maina had earlier lamented that Justice Abang aggravated his high blood pressure on the day he was arraigned.
He said his health deteriorated after the Judge asked the court registrar to order him to stop staring at the bench, a pronouncement Maina said made him feel as if he was being convicted.
Meanwhile, though he was not present in court on Tuesday, based on the medical report, Justice Abang, deferred his trial and directed a staff of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Mrs. Mairo Mohammed, who had appeared as the first prosecution witness, PW-1, in the matter, to return on the next adjourned date.
The trial Judge, however, refused an application by Maina’s lawyer, Mr. Francis Oronsaye, for the hearing of his client’s motion for bail to be suspended till a later date.
Mr. Oronsaye told the court that his principal, Chief Joe Gadzama, SAN, was handling another matter before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and was therefore unable to attend the proceeding.
Not satisfied with the reason, Justice Abang ordered him to move the bail application, stressing that his principal ought to have known that the Federal High Court was higher in the order of judicial hierarchy.
Besides, Justice Abang noted that though he initially fixed November 19 to hear the bail application, the court, owing to a motion by the defendant, abridged the time.
After counsel to the defendant insisted that he was not prepared to argue the bail application, the court, gave the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, the nod to move its own counter-affidavit to the motion.
EFCC’s lawyer, Mr.Mohammed Abubakar, told the court that the Commission had in the counter-affidavit it filed on October 30, opposed the release of Maina on bail.
In the counter-affidavit that was deposed to by one Deborah Opete, EFCC, chronicled all the efforts it made before it was able to arrest the ex-pension boss.
The anti-graft agency told the court that it took the intervention of a team that was led by the Department of State Service, DSS, to apprehend the defendant whom it said declined several invitations it extended to him.
It, therefore, urged the court to deny him pail, insisting that he posed a flight risk.
Meantime, though Maina’s lawyer did not argue his bail application, Justice Abang ruled that it would be deemed to have been duly moved before the court. He consequently adjourned the matter to deliver a ruling on the bail motion.
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 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.
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 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.
It said that the defendant had on June 27, 2012, made a cash payment of $2m through one Adamu Modibbo, for the purchase of another property in the Jabi District of 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.