Nigerian Senator representing Borno South, Senator Ali Ndume, has been remanded yesterday, in Kuje prison by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, following his inability to produce the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, whom he stood surety for.
The court, in a ruling by trial Justice Okon Abang, declined Ndume’s plea for an adjournment to enable him to explain why he was unable to trace the whereabouts of Maina who is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and a firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited. EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that Maina used account of the firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2 billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court 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 channeled. Though the court initially granted the 1st Defendant bail on November 26, 2019, to the tune of N1billion, it subsequently varied the condition on January 28, 2020, by reducing the bail sum to N500 million.
The court, however, insisted that he must produce a serving Senator with landed property in Abuja worth the total bail sum, to stand surety for him. Maina spent over seven months on remand at the Kuje prison owing to his inability to fulfill the bail conditions. He was eventually released from detention on July 24, after Senator Ndume agreed to stand surety for him. Meanwhile, Maina had since September 29, refused to appear before the court for continuation of his trial, even though the anti-graft agency had called six witnesses that testified in the matter. At the resumed proceedings yesterday, his lawyer,
Mr. Francis Oronsaye, told the court that he does not know his whereabouts. “My lord, as it stands today, I can categorically say that I don’t know where the 1st Defendant is”, Oronsaye stated. On its part, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, maintained that since the ex-Pension reform boss has jumped bail, his surety, Ndume, should be remanded in custody or made to forfeit the N500m bail bond to the Federal Government. EFCC further noted that Ndume failed to file any process to show cause why he should not be sanctioned by the court over the disappearance of the Defendant he pledged to produce for trial at all times.
However, Ndume, through his lawyer, Mr. M. E. Oru, pleaded the court for an adjournment to enable him to secure some documents that would help his defence. Relying on section 36(1) and (6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the lawmaker, said he would need adequate time and facilities to prepare for his defence, contending that granting the reliefs sought by the EFCC would amount to denying him fair hearing. In a bench ruling, trial Justice Abang noted that Ndume had in an affidavit of means he deposed to on May 5, agreed to pay the N500m bail bond on Maina’s head should he jump bail. The court stressed that it had on four separate dates, afforded Ndume the opportunity to show cause why he should not be remanded in custody or made to forfeit the bail sum to FG in view of the disappearance of the 1st Defendant. Justice Abang further noted that though Ndume had on November 18, pleaded for an adjournment to enable him to file necessary processes to defend himself, he failed to do so. According to the Judge, instead of filing processes, Ndume, wrote a letter to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court, requesting for seven documents that included the entire record of proceedings in the matter.
The court held that EFCC’s application for Ndume to be remanded in custody and for him to forfeit the bail bond, succeeded. Consequently, relying on section 179 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the court ordered that Ndume should be remanded in the Kuje Correctional Center, pending when he is able to pay the N500m bail sum into the coffers of FG, as he agreed to do in his affidavit.
Alternatively, the court directed the sale of a property situated at Plot158 Cadastral Zone AO2, Asokoro, which belongs to Ndume, so as to raise the bail sum. It said proceed from sale of the property should be paid into the federation account. The court said the third alternative was for Ndume to produce Maina in court for continuation of his trial. Justice Abang held that Ndume should remain in detention at Kuje, pending the fulfilment of any of the conditions.
“The surety has not placed any material or offered any good or substantial reason why the matter must be adjourned today. “The law must be evenly handed. It is no respecter of person”, Justice Abang held.
He said Ndume’s lawyer “took a serious risk” when he chose to write an administrative letter to the DCR of the court, instead of filing processes to show cause as he was directed to do. In any event, my hands are tied. The surety himself admitted in the affidavit of means he deposed to before this court that he would forfiet the bail bond should the Defendant jump bail. “He has been offered several opportunities to be heard, but he failed to utilize them. The surety cannot therefore claim that he was denied fair hearing,”
Justice Abang added. The Judge said he refrained from moving against Ndume on four successive dates- September 29, 30, October 2 and 19- that Maina refused to submit himself for trial. The case was subsequently adjourned till Tuesday for Maina’s trial to continue in his absence. Vanguard News Nigeria Source: Vanguard News