A Federal High Court in Abuja has threatened to penalise Senator Ali Ndume (representing Borno South) should he fail to produce the ex-Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina on October 5 this year.
Maina is being prosecuted before the court on offences relating to money luandering.
Ndume stood surety for him when the court granted Maina bail on the condition that he would always attend court with him pending the conclusion of the case or forfeit the N500million bail bond.
At the mention of the case on Friday, Maina was absent, while Ndume was in court. Maina’s lawyer, Francis Oronsaye told the court that his client was on admission at the Maitama General Hospital and prayed the court for an adjournment.
Lead prosecution lawyer, Farouk Abdullah objected, and faulted Oronsay’s claim that Maina was on admission in hospital.Abdullah noted that Friday was the third time Maina would be absent in court without cogent reasons.
He noted that Maina was absent on September 29, 2020, following which the court adjourned till September 30, on which date he also failed to attend court, before the case was fixed for October 2.
“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,” Abdullah said.
The prosecution lawyer said he has filed an affidavit to that effect and urged the court to take judicial notice of the events, which showed that Maina had jumped bail. In view of this, we pray the court to so hold and to issue a warrant of arrest against the 1st defendant,” he said.
Abdullah urged the court to issue a summon on Ndume to show course why he should not forfeit the bail bond and be remanded in a correctional facility, since the lawmaker entered into recognisance before the court to always produce Maina to stand the trial.
“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,” he said.
When asked by the court about the defendant for whom he stood surety, Ndume said he was expecting Maina to be in court.
Ndume, who said this was the first time he would be standing as surety in court, said in as much as he would want to be responsible to his constituency, he would always do this in compliance with the law.
He told the court that he could not come to the court on September 29 due to the Boko Haram attack on the convoy of the governor of his state in which a number of security personnel lost their lives.
He urged the court to give him time to consult with Maina’s lawyer and family to know if he (Maina) would ensure that he always attend court in order for him to continue to stand as his surety.
“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 tight,” he said.
When Ndume attempted to plead with the court for a review on the court order to always appear with Maina on each adjourned date, the judge told him that a decision had already been taken on that.
The judge, Justice Okon Abang directed a staff of the court to read out the affidavit Ndume deposed to on May 5, 2020, where he pledged to always produce Maina in court or forfeit the bail bond of N500m to the Federal Government should Maina jumped bail.
Ndume said though he understood the affidavit he deposed to clearly, “I want to appeal to his lordship to hear me out. I deposed to that affidavit after the 1st defendant’s wife and his uncle told me that the accuse will always appear in court and will not jump bail. I did not foresee this circumstances, my lord,” Ndume said.
The Senator said he had expected that each day, he would only produce Maina in court and then proceed to other national assignments of representing his constituency and the country in general.
“For instance, I am supposed to be at the ECOWAS Parliament today, but I am here now,” he added.
He told the court that Maina’s doctor said he was in a hospital on admission.
When asked by the judge if he knew where Maina was, he said: “My lord, I must confess I do not know.”
The Senator said he had made effort to track Maina down through the commissioner of police, FCT.
He said the outcome of the police effort to track him down yielded result as they were able to discover his residence in the Jabi area of Abuja.
“I do not know his residence in Abuja but I know his residence in Kaduna,” he said.
Mina said he had not gone to his house since Maina’s wife gave him assurance that he would be in court for the day’s proceeding. He prayed the court to give him time to produce Maina in court.
Responding to Abdulah’s argument, Oronsaye urged the court to discountenance the prosecution lawyer’s application for a bench warrant or the revocation of the bail granted Maina.
Ruling, Justice Abang noted that the defence failed to offer a reasonable excuse for Maina’s absence.
The judge noted that he had advised Maina not to jump bail considering the fact that Ndume decided to put his liberty and personal comfort on line to ensure his release.
He said it was disheartening that the situation he foresaw has come to pass, adding that Ndume ought to know whether Maina is a man of his word and if truly, he is a family friend as he (Ndume) claimed in his affidavit.
Justice Abang added: “However, the law must take its course as it is no respecter of persons. Both the defendant and surety have disobeyeda court order.
“But having listened to the passionate plea of defendant counsel and distinguished Senator, I will reluctantly give the Senator another opportunity to produce the defendant.
“Even though the court took a risk to admit the defendant to bail, it was not borne out of cowardice,” he held.
The judge said, though the prosecution did the right thing to ask for revocation of Maina’s bail and for the surety to forfeit the bail bond, he adjourned the matter until October 5, 2020.
Justice Abang ordered that the surety, who must be in court on the next date, should also ensure that the defendant attends court as well.
The judge said: “The defendant should not judge himself. He should have a rethink to turn a new leaf.
“I only allowed the distinguished Senator to go home today in order to produce the defendant on 5th of October 2020 as he claimed that he did not know his (Maina’s) whereabouts.”