By Idowu Maryam
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday commenced the trial of a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, in his absence.
Maina, is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for money laundering charges of N2billion, and had last appeared in court on July 2, 2020, during the investigation of the sixth prosecution witness by his legal team.
He failed to attend subsequent proceedings since September 29, 2020, prompting the judge, Justice Okon Abang, to adjudge him as having skipped bail in a ruling delivered on November 18, 2020.
The trial judge on the November 18 ruling, repealed the bail earlier granted to him, and ordered his arrest, and his trial would proceed in his absence.
On Monday however, the judge ordered the arrest of Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, until he is able to produce the fleeing defendant in court or pay the N500m bail bond to the Federal Government.
But even as Maina was still, the court on Tuesday resumed hearing in the case even though there was no lawyer to represent him or his company charged along with him as the second defendant.
Following the request of the prosecuting counsel, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, the judge closed the right of Maina to continue to examine the sixth prosecution.
He also expropriated the second defendant’s right to question the witness.
Ali Sani, the seventh prosecuting witness, also testified, with defendants.
The judge, who also closed the defendants’ right to question the witness, also admitted an exhibit presented by the prosecuting without any objection.
Justice Abang held that the defendants had the opportunity to question the witnesses and oppose the acceptableness of the exhibit submitted 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 the moment of filing this report on Thursday, the eighth prosecution witness had been invited to the witness box to testify.