THE Federal High Court in Abuja today (Tuesday, November 24, 2020) commenced the trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, in his absence. Maina is being prosecuted on N2 billion money laundering charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He last attended court on July 2, 2020, during the cross-examination of the sixth prosecution witness by his legal team but however failed to attend subsequent proceedings since September 29, 2020, prompting the trial judge, Honourable Justice Okon Abang, to adjudge him as having jumped bail in a ruling delivered on November 18, 2020. Justice Abang in the ruling revoked the bail earlier granted him, ordered his arrest, and directed that his trial would proceed in his absence.
At yesterday’s (Monday, November 23, 2020) proceedings, Justice Abang had ordered the remand of Maina’s bail surety, Senator Ali Ndume (APC Borno South), until he produces the absconded Maina in court or pay the N500m bail bond to the Federal Government.
At Tuesday’s sitting, Maina was neither present nor represented by a lawyer. His company, which is the second defendant in the N2 billion fraud case, was also absent and unrepresented by any counsel.
Following the request of the prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, Justice Abang closed the right of Maina to continue cross-examining the sixth prosecution. He also foreclosed the second defendant’s right to cross-examine the witness.
The seventh prosecuting witness, Ali Sani, also testified, with defendants and their lawyers unavailable to cross-examine him.
Justice Abang, who also closed the defendants’ right to cross-examine the witness, also admitted an exhibit tendered by the prosecution without any objection. He held that the defendants had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and oppose the admissibility of the exhibit tendered but failed to take advantage of it. “They have themselves to blame,” the judge repeated each time he had to take a decision closing or foreclosing the defendants’ rights in the course of the trial.
As at press time, the eighth prosecution witness had been invited to the witness box to testify.