By Zainab Yusuf (Financial Crime Editor)

Justice Okong Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, December 4, 2020, gave an order for the remand of ex-chairman, Pension Reform Task Team, (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina in prison custody till the end of his trial, and adjourned the matter till December 8, 2020 upon application by a new defence counsel, Adaji Abel.

According to Abang, “The defendant is already on bench warrant, his bail having been revoked, so he shall be remanded in a correctional service, pending conclusion of trial. The matter is hereby adjourned till December 8, 2020 at the instance of the first defendant for continuation of trial."

The order for Maina to remain in prison custody till the end of his trial followed his jumping of his bail by fleeing to Niger Republic, where he was arrested by the International Police (Interpol) and extradited to Nigeria on Thursday, December 3, 2020 to face justice.

The new defence counsel applied for adjournment to enable him familiarize himself with the case but prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubaker opposed the application on the ground that the ninth prosecution witness, (PW9), Rouqayyah Ibrahim, an EFCC detective was in court to continue her evidence-in-chief.

In ruling against the prosecution, Abang stated that

“The first defendant is entitled to all his constitutional rights under Section 36 of 1999 Constitution, especially the rights that have to do with fair hearing. The defendant is represented by counsel and the counsel prayed for a short date to enable him to be properly briefed. I am inclined to accommodate the counsel for the first defendant in the overall interest of justice,” noting that the ninth prosecution witness, who has been testifying in Maina’s trial in absentia, may continue from where she stopped on Thursday, December 3, when the trial now resumes.

According to Abang, “It is also possible to allow the PW9 that has already commenced her evidence to complete same and for the defence counsel to take a date for cross-examination, but I think it is safer and indeed neater to adjourn the matter to enable the first defendant brief his counsel in the overall interest of justice.”

Also at today’s sitting, Francis Oransanye, Maina’s former counsel, formally withdrew his services to the defendant, having filed a notice of withdrawal in court on November 25, 2020.

Meanwhile, Justice Okon Abang, same Friday, December 4, 2020, adjourned the trial of Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina, son of Abdulrashed Maina, former chairman of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) till December 8, 2020 after his counsel, Francis Oransanye, informed the court that he had withdrawn his legal services to the defendant.

Because of the absence of legal representation for the defence, prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar asked the court to foreclose the right of the defendant for a defence to the testimonies against him.

In granting the prayer, the judge stated that he was foreclosing the defendant's right in the matter “having been given the same opportunity to defend same but failed to take advantage of the said opportunity,” and gave prosecution seven days from today to file its written address.

It could be recalled that the third prosecution witness in Faisal’s trial, Rouqayya Ibrahim, a Principal Detective Superintendent (PDS) with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC had in her testimony on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, revealed that the defendant made under declaration of assets in his Code of Conduct Bureau asset declaration form as well as contradictory statements to the EFCC and the court, concerning the registration of the company he allegedly used in siphoning funds to the tune of N58million.

Because Faisal was not in court, and did not send legal representation in the four consecutive adjournments after his release on bail November 26, 2019 Justice Abang on November 18, 2020, revoked his bail, issue a bench warrant against him and ruled that his trial will continue in his absence.

Additionally, the judge ruled that his surety, Hon Sani Umar San Galadima, of the House of Representatives, representing Kaura Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State should appear in court on November 25, 2020 to show cause why he should not forfeit his N60 million bail bond for his failure to produce the defendant in court.

At today’s sitting, counsel to the surety, M E. Sheriff, in doing what was stipulated for his client, asked for a short adjournment to study the prosecution’s counter-affidavit and file appropriate response, to which the prosecution made no objection as Abubakar noted that the surety was willing to forfeit his property, contained in the bail bond, but was only suing for time to dispose it.

Faisal is being prosecuted by the EFCC, on a three-count charge of false declaration of assets and money laundering to the tune of N58 million.

Justice Abang adjourned the matter till December 8and 11, 2020, for continuation of proceedings against the surety and adoption of prosecution’s final written address, respectively. NNL.