By Olalekan Awojodu
The trial in absential of the former Chairman of the defunct Presidential Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, has commenced in his absence.
The matter which is before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday took a new dimension lately due to Maina’s absence in court for the fifth times now after he was granted bail.
Maina has reportedly jumped bail and a warrant of arrest has since been issued against him by the court.
Maina is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 12-count charge, bordering on money laundering and fraud of about N2bn.
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, the duo of Maina and his counsel were not present in court and was without any representation.
While giving a short ruling on the matter, the trial judge, Justice Abang held that Maina and his counsel have abandoned proceedings, saying they have foreclosed their right to cross examining the sixth prosecution witness, who gave evidence in September.
“The defendant is not in court and he is not represented by any lawyer, he is is deemed to have foreclose his right for further cross examination.
He has the opportunity of cross examining but refused to do so”, the Judge ruled.
Subsequently, the case was then adjourned till November 25 for continuation of trial.
But in a related development, Justice Abang also revoked the bail granted to Maina’s son, Faisal and ordered his arrest for jumping bail.
Faisal was arraigned alongside his father last year by the EFCC over money laundering charges.
The Judge have also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges be proceeded in absentia pending his arrest or appearance in court.
Abang also summoned Faisal’s surety, Sani Umar Dangaladima who is a member of the House of Representatives, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.
The court has also announce the continuation of his trial in his absence for Wednesday.
But as the proceedings continued in court on Tuesday, an estate developer who is the seventh prosecution witness, Ali Sani told the court how Maina bought a property worth N240 million with dollar equivalent of $1.4 million in cash through his son, Faisal.
Another witness, Ibrahim Abdulkareem, (PW8), who was a member of the defunct Presidential Pension Task Reform Team narrated how Maina got N146 million for biometric exercise of pensioners from the Head of Service.
According to him, the money was splitted and paid into five different account of members of the team, out of which N5.99 million was paid into his own personal account.
Abdul Kareem further told court that Maina latter asked him to collect all the money from the members and that he was made the “Central Collector”.
He said anytime he collects the money, he deposited same with one, Ann who is a secretary to Maina who receipts him after each deposit.
“Later, Maina came into my office and asked me why I was requesting for receipt of the money given to Ann and I told him it was for the purpose of accounting for the money.
“He ordered me to give him the original acknowledgement receipt and I gave them to him “, he said and he tendered photocopies of the acknowledgment receipts which were accepted as exhibits by the court.