Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the arrest of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, adjudged to have jumped bail, causing a setback to his trial for N2bn money laundering.
Justice Okon Abang issued the arrest warrant after revoking the bail earlier granted the defendant.
He ordered all security agencies in the country to arrest Maina without delay.
The judge also ordered that the trial, which had been stalled, would proceed in Maina’s absence pending when the defendant would be produced in court.
He made the orders following the applications by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecuting counsel, Mr Mohammed Abubakar.
Abubakar had in praying for the orders, said Maina had been absent from the court’s proceedings of September 29, 30, October 2 and 3, 2020 “without any reasonable explanation.”
He also anchored his application for revocation of Maina’s bail and an order for his arrest, Abubakar on section 184 of ACJA.
Responding, Maina’s lawyer, Mark Agbo, said such applications could not be made to the court orally.
The judge in his ruling dismissed Agbo’s contention, saying the dispute over the propriety of making such applications orally had been settled in a ruling delivered by him at previous proceedings.
Justice Abang held that Maina’s absence from court without any reasonable explanation “was contemptuous act” which the court overlooked out of “maturity and restraint.”
He ruled, “The law must be followed. The application for the revocation of bail deserves to succeed.
“The order granting the defendant bail on November 26, 2019, varied on January 28, 2020 and further varied on June 29, 2020, is hereby revoked.
“Bench warrant is hereby issued against the first defendant for the arrest of the first defendant wherever he may be found and brought this court.””
After directing the security agencies to arrest him, the judge also “ordered that the trial of the first defendant will continue in absentia”, relying on 352(4) of ACJA earlier cited by the prosecution.
The prosecution had also urged the court to order Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume to forfeit his N500m bail guaranty, but the judge declined to grant the prayer after the senator pleaded for time to enable him to get a lawyer to represent him.
The judge then fixed November 23 for Ndume to appear in court to show why he should not be remanded in prison and forfeit his N500m bail bond pending when he would be able to produce the defendant in court.
Earlier expressing his frustrations to the judge, Ndume said he had taken his search for the defendant as far Niger Republic, all to no avail.
The Borno South senator said, “My Lord, since October 19, 2020, when the court adjourned and graciously gave me up till today (Wednesday) to produce the defendant, I continued searching for him, seeking the assistance of security agencies and anybody that could give me intelligence report as to his whereabouts, but I could not locate him.
“In my efforts to locate him, I put out a search in Niger (Republic) where he was one time said to be residing. But there was no evidence that he was there.
“I will continue to look for him because I stood as his surety and it is my responsibility that I bring him to court.”