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A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre, following his failure to produce former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, who is believed to have jumped bail.
Justice Okon Abang ordered Ndume’s remand while ruling on an oral application filed by lawyer to the prosecution in the ongoing money laundering trial of Maina and a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
The judge ordered that Ndume could only be released if he either provides evidence of payment of the N500 million bail bond into the Federation Account, or if there is evidence that the Federal Government has sold the property he pledged, located at Asokoro in Abuja, and the N500 million bond is paid into government’s account from the proceed of the sale; or that he is able to produce Maina before the court.
The accused were first arraigned on October 25, 2019, following which Maina was admitted to conditional bail at N1 billion on November 26, 2019.
He could not meet the bail conditions until Ndume agreed to stand surety for him after the court agreed to his request and reviewed the bail sum to N500 million.
In undertaking to stand as Maina’s surety, Ndume pledged to ensure that the accused participate in the trial until judgment, failing which he (the surety) would forfeit the N500 million bail bond, which he secured with a property in Asokoro, Abuja, believed to be of same value.
Maina was released from custody on July 24, 2020; he attended court on few occasions and stopped from September 29, 2020, with his lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, claiming that his client was ill but could not account for his whereabouts.
The case came up again on two occasions – September 30 and October 2 – with Maina still staying away.
When it again came up on October 19, Ndume, who was always present, told the court that he had become helpless because he could not locate Maina.
He prayed the court to issue a bench warrant for Maina’s arrest to enable relevant security agencies intervene in apprehending the first defendant, who he believed had jumped bail.
In his ruling, Justice Abang revoked Maina’s bail, issued a bench warrant for his arrest and ordered Ndume to show cause on the next adjourned date why the prosecution’s application that he forfeit the bail bond and be committed the prison should not be granted.
The judge adjourned till November 23, 2020.
When the case was mentioned yesterday, Ndume, who was dressed in white native attire and a white cap, was offered a seat in front of the court, close to the dock.
His lawyer, Maxwell Oru, told the court that the certified true copies (CTCs) of some documents he applied for had not been made available to him by the court to enable him prepare his client’s defence.
He applied for an adjournment to enable him obtain the documents from the court and prepare his client’s defence on the committal proceedings.
Oronsaye did not object to Oru’s application for adjournment, but Abubakar did.
In a ruling, Justice Abang agreed with the prosecution and noted that the decision by Oru to write a “mere administrative letter” rather than file an affidavit to show cause, was a risky gamble that the lawyer took to the detriment of his client.
He adjourned till November 24 for continuation of trial, in Maina’s absence.
The judge rose immediately he completed the ruling and, Ndume, who looked confused about what just happened, sat down for about 10 minutes until he was led out of the court by prison officials.
Youths from the 19 Northern states, under the auspices of the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), yesterday said it was an act of injustice to remand Ndume in prison for Maina’s offence.
A statement in Kaduna by its spokesman Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, AYF said: “This is not the first time that a prominent Nigerian is standing surety for someone that would jump bail or refuse to appear in court.
“Moreover, the Federal Government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have what it takes to hunt down Maina, if they really wanted to. We are aware that Senator Eyinaya Abaribe was a surety to Nnamdi Kanu, who had jumped bail and absconded from the country, but the senator has not been put in prison. Why is Ndume’s case different?
“…We are of the belief that Ndume, as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a prominent citizen, should have been given enough time to produce Maina.”