As EFCC applies for arrest warrant, forfieture of N500m bail bond
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, alleged that former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who is facing trial on money laundering charges, has jumped bail.
The anti-graft agency, in a 12-count criminal charge it filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, alleged that Maina used a firm- Common Input Properties & Investment Limited- to launder funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, the anti-graft agency 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, Maina, who was recently released from the Kuje Correctional Center after the Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, agreed to stand surety for him, has failed to appear in court for his trial on two successive dates.
At the resumed proceeding on Friday, Maina was also absent, while his surety, Ndume, told the court that he does not know about his whereabouts.
The lawmaker said it was with the help of the FCT Commissioner of Police that he was able to track and discover Maina’s residence in the Jabi District of Abuja.
Ndume told the court that Maina’s wife assured him that her husband would be available for his trial.
The Senator said it was his first time standing surety in court, even as he pleaded for time to enable him to produce Maina for the continuation of his trial.
“I want it to also be on record that as a Senator, I represent the good, the bad, and the ugly of the constituency. Right now, my hands are tied,” Ndume added.
Trial Justice Okon Abang drew Ndume’s attention to a nine-paragraphed affidavit he deposed for Maina’s bail, wherein he pledged that he would always produce the Defendant to court for trial or forfeit the N500million bail bond to the Federal Government should he jumped bail.
Ndume said though he understood the affidavit, he begged the court for leniency, saying it was Ndume’s wife and his uncle that gave him the assurance that he will not jump bail.
“I did not foresee these circumstances, my lord,” saying he never also understood that he ought to appear with Ndume on each trial date.
Meantime, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, relied on section 184 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and applied for a warrant of arrest to be issued against Maina.
The agency equally urged the court to issue a summon on Ndume to show cause why he should not forfeit the N500m bail bond to FG and also remanded in a correctional center since he deposed an affidavit as a surety to guarantee the availability of the Defendant for his trial.
“My lord, in the event that the surety is unable or unwilling to forfeit the bail bond, we urge this court to remand the surety in a correctional facility pending when he meets the terms of his recognisance before this honourable court,” EFCC’s lawyer added.
He noted that despite claim by Ndume’s lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, that his client is bedridden and hospitalized at the Maitama General Hospital, investigation however revealed that the Defendant is not a patient there.
“My lord, staff of the prosecution establishment visited General Hospital Maitama and interviewed the chief medical director and other staff.
“We discovered that the 1st defendant is not a patient of the hospital,” the prosecution counsel added, even as he urged the court to take judicial notice of the events and conclude that Maina has jumped bail.
However, Ndume’s lawyer, insisted that his client was ill, just as he begged the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the Defendant by adjourning the case to a later date.
He said the application to revoke Maina’s bail was premature.
In a ruling, Justice Abang said he was minded to give Senator Ndume the last opportunity to produce the Defendant he stood surety for.
The trial Judge said no reasonable excuse was offered for Maina’s absence in court.
Justice Abang said he had earlier implored Maina not to jump bail in view of the fact that Senator Ndume decided to put his liberty and personal comfort on line to ensure his release after over nine months in detention.
While adjourning the matter to October 5, the trial Judge ordered that Maina and Ndume must be in court on the next date.
“I only allowed the distinguished senator to go home today in order to produce the defendant on 5th as he claimed that he did not know his whereabouts,” the Judge added.
The court had on January 28, reduced Maina’s bail sum from N1billion to N500m.
The court also reviewed the aspect of the bail terms that required the Defendant to produce two serving Senators to stand surety for him.
Justice Abang varied the condition by allowing the Defendant to only produce one serving Senator that owns a property worth N500m in either Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II, Central Business District or Katampe districts in Abuja.
The court maintained that the surety must accompany the defendant to court on every trial date, and also submit his three years tax clearance certificate for verification.
The trial Judge warned that Maina’s bail would be revoked any day his surety failed to accompany him to court for his trial.
EFCC had opposed Maina’s bail, alleging that he has no traceable address.
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.
The Defendants had since pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.