By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, ordered the remand of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abulrasheed Maina, in prison custody, till the conclusion of his trial.
The former pension reform boss is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and his firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited.
His prison remand came barely 24 hours after he was arrested at Niger Republic and extradited back to the country by the Interpol.
Maina fled the country after he jumped bail.
He had since September 29, refused to appear before the court for continuation of his trial.
Owing to his disappearance, the court, on November 18, issued a warrant for his arrest, even as it revoked his bail and ordered his trial in absentia.
Though the court initially remanded his surety, Senator Ali Ndume who represents Borno South, in custody, he was later released on bail after he had spent five days in prison.
Meanwhile, following Maina’s arrest by the Interpol, the EFCC, on Friday, produced him in court.
The Prosecution counsel, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, applied that he should be remanded in prison custody since the court had revoked his bail.
EFCC made the application shortly after the team of lawyers that earlier represented the Defendant, led by Chief J. K. Gadazama, SAN, secured the nod of the court to withdraw from the case.
A lawyer in the team, Mr. Francis Oronsaye, based the decision to withdraw from the matter on Maina’s conduct, which he said brought embarrassment to their Chambers.
Meanwhile, a new lawyer, Mr. Adaji Abel, told the court that Maina briefed him on Friday to take over his defence.
Abel pleaded the court for a short adjournment to enable his to properly appraise the case-file.
The adjornment request was opposed by EFCC’s lawyer, who relied on section 349 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and urged the court to allow the trial to allow the ninth witness, Mrs. Rouquayya lbrahim, to continue her Evidence-in-Chief.
However, in his ruling, trial Justice Okon Abang said he was inclined to accommodate Maina’s new lawyer, “in the overall interest of justice”, by granting him a short date.
The court however ordered the remand of the 1st Defendant at Kuje Correctional Center.
“The Defendant is already on bench warrant having jumped bail and his bail having been revoked. So he shall be remanded in correctional center, pending the conclusion of the trial”, Justice Abang held.
The case was subsequently adjourned to December 8 for continuation of hearing.
EFCC alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court that the Defendant 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 Defendant pleaded not giulty to the charge.
Meantime, the court, on Friday, fixed December 11 for the EFCC to adopt its final written address in a separate money laundering charge pending against Maina’s son, Faisal.
Faisal, who is facing a 3-count charge, equally jumped bail like his father.
Justice Abang has slated December 8 to conduct committal proceeding against his surety, Umar Dan Galadima, who is a member of the House of Representatives for Kaura Namoda Federal Constituency.
The court had ordered the surety to show cause why he should not be remanded in custody or made to forfeit the N60million bail bond he entered on behalf of the Defendant, to the Federal Government.
EFCC alleged that Maina’s son had sometimes between 2013 and 2019, received the sum of N58.11million, being proceeds of a corrupt act by his father.
He was also accused of failing to properly declare his assets before the EFCC.
The court had since issued a bench warrant for his arrest, even as the Prosecution closed its case against him after its third witness, Mrs. Ibrahim, testified.