Senator Ali Ndume who represents Borno South, has agreed to stand surety for the embattled Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who is facing trial over his alleged involvement in money laundering. The former pension boss had since October 25, 2019, remained at the Kuje Correctional Center over his inability to perfect some of the conditions the Federal High Court in Abuja gave for his release on bail.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had alleged that Maina used a firm- Common Input Properties & Investment Limited- to launder funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja. The firm was cited as the 2nd Defendant in the 12-count criminal charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019. The anti-graft agency alleged that Maina 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 channelled. It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal. Meanwhile, though the court granted the 1st Defendant bail since November 24, 2019, he had since been unable to fulfil the conditions he said were too stringent. Following a previous application, he filed for variation of the terms, trial Justice Okon Abang, on January 28, reduced the initial bail sum from N1billion to N500million. The court also reviewed the aspect of the bail terms that required the Defendant to produce two serving Senators to stand surety for him.
Justice Abang varied the condition by allowing the Defendant to only produce one serving Senator that owns a property worth N500m in either Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II, Central Business District or Katampe districts in Abuja. The court maintained that the surety must accompany the defendant to court on every trial date, and also submit his three years tax clearance certificate for verification. The trial Judge warned that Maina’s bail would be revoked any day his surety failed to accompany him to court for his trial. The Defendant subsequently re-approached the court to further vary the condition, decrying that no Senator agreed to stand surety for him. In a ruling on April 29, Justice Abang, dismissed the request and held that the Defendant failed to adduce any material to establish the existence of an exceptional circumstance that would warrant a review of the conditions the court imposed for his release on bail. Meantime, at the resumed proceeding on the matter on Tuesday, Maina, through his lawyer, Chief J. K. Gadzama, SAN, told the court that Senator Ndume eventually agreed to stand surety for him. Gadzama said in view of the development, his client, decided to withdraw an appeal he lodged before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to challenge his bail conditions. He, however, begged the court to waive the aspect of the conditions that would require Senator Ndume to tender the Certificate of Occupancy of the property he intends to submit for the bail of the Defendant. Maina’s lawyer told the court that Senator Ndume acquired the said property from one Lawal Ahmed, whom he said recently died after he contracted Coronavirus. He said the lawmaker, in a bid to prove that the property now belongs to him, tendered an irrevocable Power of Attorney that was issued to him by the deceased and duly verified by the FCT Administration. “My lord, in principle, he has met the bail condition. The only reason why we have this unfortunate situation that he is still being incarcerated is that the court stressed that the C of O must be submitted. But he has tendered the Power of Attorney. “We are asking my Lord to temper Justice with mercy. “It will be the joy of this court to see the Defendant/Applicant enjoying his bail. The court will not be joyful that there is a mockery of its order granting bail to the Defendant”, Gadzama pleaded, adding that his client’s health had deteriorated. ”I am even surprised that he is in court today. My Lord the Defendant needs all kinds of physicians to see him. “He is not seeing well and he has to go for surgery. It is in the interest of the court and the public whose funds have been alleged to have been tampered with, for him to live to face trial.
“We urge the court to be further magnanimous, by a variation of this single condition that has not been met”. However, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Farouk Abdullah, filed a counter-affidavit to oppose Maina’s variation request. It argued that Power of Attorney did not convey ownership of the said property to Senator Ndume. Besides, EFCC drew attention of the court to the fact that though Senator Ndume agreed to stand surety for the Defendant, he made it clear that he would not be able to appear before the court on every trial date. “This presupposes that the Defendant has not met all the conditions stipulated by this court. The affidavit indicates that Defendant is saying that another condition cannot be met. “We state that this application is unmeritorious and deserved to be dismissed. We urge my Lord to dismiss it and order that all the conditions earlier given by this court be strictly complied with”. EFCC told the court that the Defendant has no traceable address. After he had listened to both sides, Justice Abang deferred ruling on the application till June 29. The prosecution maintained that Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act. The Defendants had since pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.