N2.1bn pension fraud: Maina remanded in jail

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Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, today ordered the remand of the former chairman of the Pension Reforms Task Team (PRTT), Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, in prison custody till November 19.

Maina is charged by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), with 12 counts bordering on operating fictitious bank accounts, fraud and money laundering to the tune of N2.1 billion.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, told the judge that the 12-count charge was dated October 16 and filed on October 17.

However, Maina pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred him.

NAN reports that Mr. Adeola Adedipe, who appeared for the 2nd defendant, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd., a company allegedly owned by Maina, also entered a “not guilty plea” for the company.

Shortly after the charge was read to the defendants, the prosecution counsel, Abubakar, informed the court that he was ready to call his first witness.

For his part, counsel for Maina, Mr. Ahmed Raji, interjected by drawing the court’s attention to the defendant’s bail application dated October 22, which he had filed prior to the defendant’s arraignment.

However, the prosecution counsel opposed the bail application saying it was incompetent.

Abubakar argued that by making frantic effort to move the bail application, “the defendants are putting the cart before the horse.”

The EFCC lawyer stressed that the issue of bail application could only arise if there was an adjournment of the matter.

Abubakar reminded the court that the hearing notice served on all parties in the case indicated that all should come prepared for trial to begin since the charge, proof of evidence, list of witnesses, etc, had been served on the defendants.

He, however, admitted being served the bail application of the 1st defendant, saying the commission decided not to file a counter-affidavit because the application was incompetent.

He told the court that the fact that he did not file a counter affidavit in opposition to Maina’s bail application did not mean the anti-graft agency had conceded to the application.

The EFCC lawyer argued that “anytime the defence counsel filed a competent bail application, we will vehemently oppose it.”

When asked by Justice Abang on what he meant by the application for bail being incompetent, Abubakar answered that it was filed before the arraignment of the defendant in court.

Consequently, the court asked Raji for his reaction on Section 356(1) of ACJA, which the court raised sumoto, which provides that bail application must be filed after the arraignment.

In his response, Raji said he needed time to react to the question and therefore pleaded for an adjournment.

On the prosecution’s position that he was ready to call his witness, Raji said in line with section 36 of the Constitution, the defendant was entitled to time for adequate preparation for his defence.

He said the charge served on the defendant was in four volumes of 500 pages each, and that he had not had time to discuss with the defendant, saying he was only given seven minutes to discuss with Maina at the office of the EFCÇ without privacy.

He said going ahead with the case would run contrary to the principle of fair hearing.

Having listened to the submissions of prosecution and defence counsel, the court adjourned the case to October 30, for the commencement of trial and ordered the EFCC to remand Maina in the Nigerian Correctional Service centre.

It would be recalled that Maina was dismissed from the civil service in 2013 following a recommendation by the office of the head of service.

It would also be recalled that the accused was first charged alongside a former head of service Mr. Steve Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe, Fredrick Hamilton, and Global Services Ltd before a Federal High Court on a 24-count bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretence in July 2015 but he absconded from the country shortly after.

It would also be recalled that Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court in Abuja  had on Tuesday, October 22, ordered a temporary forfeiture 23 choice properties traced Maina.

The judge gave the order following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC, in the suit, had urged the court to order the temporary forfeiture of the properties linked to Maina.

The properties include houses, estates, companies among others located in Abuja, Kaduna, Borno and Nasarawa.

With NAN report

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