Pension Fraud: I Can’t Find Maina, Ndume Tells Court
Ali Ndume, senator representing Borno south, has told a federal high court in Abuja that he does not know the whereabouts of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT).
Ndume had agreed to stand as a surety for Maina who is standing trial on 12 counts of alleged money laundering.
As part of his bail conditions which was varied by the court, Maina was issued a bail bond of N500 million and asked to produce a surety in like sum.
The surety must be a serving senator who must accompany the defendant at every date fixed for trial and sign a register of attendance.
Ndume who agreed to become Maina’s surety also submitted to the court, documents of his landed property worth the bail bond.
Consequently, Maina was released on July 28 after spending nine months in Kuje prison
But both Maina and Ndume were absent at the court on September 29.
On September 30, the senator was present in court but Maina was absent.
At the resumed trial on Friday, the lawmaker explained that he was absent due to the Boko Haram attack on the convoy of the governor of Borno state.
He told the court that Maina’s doctor had said the defendant was admitted to the hospital.
He said he was expecting the defendant to be in court as the wife had given assurance to of his presence in court.
But when asked by Okon Abang, presiding judge, if he knew the defendant’s whereabouts, Ndume said: “My lord, I must confess, I do not know. I did not foresee this circumstance, my lord.”
The lawmaker also said he has involved the police in the matter, urging the court to give him time to produce the defendant.
However, Farouk Abdullah, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), opposed the request for an adjournment.
He told the court that an investigation carried out by the agency revealed that Maina was not a patient at Maitama General Hospital as claimed by his lawyer.
“My lord, staff of the prosecution establishment visited General Hospital Maitama and interviewed the chief medical director and other staff,” Abdullah said.
“We discovered that the first defendant is not a patient of the hospital. In view of this, we pray the court to so hold and to issue a warrant of arrest against the first defendant.”
Abdullah also prayed the court to direct the senator to show cause why he should not forfeit the bail bond.
“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 submitted.
Responding, Francis Oronsaye, Maina’s counsel, urged the court to accept the explanation offered by Ndume and to give him time to produce Maina to stand trial.
Delivering his ruling, Abang said Ndume ought to have validated the integrity of the defendant before conceding to stand as surety for him.
“The law must take its course as it is no respecter of persons. Both the defendant and surety have disobeyed the court order,” the judge said.
“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. 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 as he claimed that he did not know his whereabouts.”