By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, rejected an application the Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, filed to be discharged as a surety in the ongoing trial of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Ndume, who spent five days at the Kuje Correctional Center after Maina jumped bail, had in the application he filed through his lawyer, Mr Marcel Oru, begged the court to allow him to pull out from the case.
He described Maina’s action that led to his detention as “highly despicable”.
However, Justice Okon Abang held that the trial court has lost the jurisdiction to grant the request.
Justice Okon held that his court has become functus-officio on the issue considering that the lawmaker had earlier gone to the Court of Appeal to challenge a ruling that ordered him to forfeit the N500million bail bond he signed on behalf of the former pension reform boss.
“Where an appeal has been filed, every application will be made before the Court of Appeal.
“Therefore, any issue can only be entertained by the Court of Appeal,” Justice Abang held.
Consequently, he dismissed the application for want of jurisdiction.
Maina is answering to a 12-count charge alongside his firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited, over his alleged involvement in money laundering, to the tune of N2billion.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that Maina equally stole over N14billion from the federal pension account, using names of fake pensioners and non-existent biometric contracts.
The agency told the court that the ex-Pension reform 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, adding that he used part of the stolen funds to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
Meanwhile, midway into the trial, Maina jumped bail and escaped from the country.
Though the court okayed his trial in absentia and issued a warrant of arrest against him, Maina, was subsequently re-arrested in the Niger Republic and returned back to the country on December 4, 2020.
The court has in the absence of Defendant, remanded his surety, Ndume, in prison custody.
The court initially held that Ndume should either produce Maina for the continuation of his trial, or forfeit the N500m bail bond
Alternatively, it directed the sale of Ndume’s property situated at Asokoro in Abuja to raise the N500m it said should be paid into the Federation Account.
After he regained his freedom on November 27, 2020, Ndume applied to withdraw from the case.
He told the court that he only met Maina once in his life before he decided to stand as his surety, being the lawmaker that represents his constituency.
Ndume said he was pressurized to stand surety for the Defendant by three former governors he met at the Kuje Correctional Center when he went to visit Maina after he was reported sick.
He said: “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.
“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 course to stand as surety.
“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.