…..Orji Kalu, Nyame, Dariye pressured me to stand surety for him, Ndume laments
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, gave Senator Ali Ndume who is representing Borno South, 21 days, to produce the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who has repeatedly failed to appear for continuation of his trial on money laundering charges.
The former pension boss is facing a 12-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and a firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited.
Maina spent over seven months on remand at the Kuje Correctional Center before the court released on bail after Senator Ndume agreed to stand surety for him.
EFCC alleged that he used account of the firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
EFCC has already opened its case and called witnesses that included bankers and Maina’s relatives, who testified and tendered exhibits in evidence before the court.
However, the Defendant had since September 29, failed to appear in court for his trial, even as the prosecution alleged that he has jumped bail.
Senator Ndume had on October 2 when the matter came up for trial, informed the court that he does not know the whereabouts of the Defendant.
Likewise, at the resumed proceedings on Monday, the lawmaker, lamented before the court that all his efforts to locate the 1st Defendant, proved abortive.
Ndume begged the court to issue an arrest warrant to enable security operatives to track down and apprehend Maina.
Ndume said he was willing to forfeit his own freedom to ensure that Maina is arrested and produced before the court.
Addressing the court after he was queried about Maina’s whereabouts on Monday, Ndume 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 constraint because I cannot take the law into my hand.
“I had reported to the DG SSS, the AIG of Police Investigation; I even wrote to 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 u to issue a warrant on him.”
Trial Justice Okon Abang then reminded Ndume that the legal implication of such arrest warrant is that he would also be remanded in custody pending when Maina is apprehended.
“I don’t mind my lord. My concern is to have him in court so that I can continue my life”, Ndume responded.
He told the court he had only met Maina once in his life before he decided to stand as his surety, being the lawmaker that represents his constituency.
Besides, Ndume told the court that he was pressurized to stand surety for the Defendant by three former governors.
“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 when he was in prison then, Joshua Dariye, 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 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,” Ndume added.
He decried that Maina who claimed to be ill, had recently released a video clip which went viral on social media about his state of health, but refused to make himself available.
“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,” Ndume pleaded.
Earlier, EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, applied for leave of the court to try Maina in absentia.
He also urged the court to not only revoke Maina’s bail, but to also direct his surety, Ndume, to pay the sum of N500million, being the total bail bond.
Maina’s lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, opposed the application to revoke his client’s bail, though he also admitted not knowing his whereabouts.
“My lord, the information we have is that the Defendant is admitted in hospital after a surgery. He said he was undergoing treatment after the surgery and the location was not disclosed.
“We are also doing our best to get him (Maina) to come to court my lord. We will also do our best to see that he comes to court,” Oronsaye added.
In a bench ruling, Justice Abang said he was inclined to in the interest of justice, give Senator Ndume 21 days grace period to produce the Defendant.
The matter was subsequently adjourned to November 18 for trial.
EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that the ex-Pension boss used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The ex-Pension boss, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.