The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, adjourned the trial and hearing of bail application of Abdulrasheed Maina, defunct Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), until Feb. 19 at the instance of his lawyer, Sani Katu, SAN.
Justice Okon Abang adjourned the matter after Katu told the court that he needed more time to enable him prepare adequately for Maina’s defence, since he was coming into the matter afresh.
The lawyer, who said he was unable to meet his client at the Kuje Correctional Centre for pre-trial conference, urged the court to adjourn the case in the interest of justice.
He said he had earlier discussed the development with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, before the sitting commenced.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Maina had, on Jan. 20, approached Justice Abang for another bail after his arrest for jumping the first bail.
Maina, in a motion on notice dated and filed on Dec. 24, 2020 brought by his lawyer, Anayo Adibe, said the application became necessary over his worsening health condition.
In the motion, the ex-pension boss told the court that he had reasonable and responsible sureties who were willing to act as sureties if granted bail.
The judge had adjourned the hearing of the bail application until Feb. 1 and equally fixed the trial continuation on the same date.
However, at the resumed trial, Katu, who was appearing for Maina for the first time, sought for adjournment to enable him prepare for his client’s defence.
However, the EFCC lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, opposed the application for adjournment.
“The matter was adjourned for hearing of pending application dated Dec 24, 2020. The matter was initially adjourned until Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 for continuation of hearing.
“The 1st defendant filed an application for bail on 30th day of Dec, 2020 and equally filed for an abridgment of time to hear the bail application, and my lord graciously fixed the hearing of the bail on Jan. 20, 2021,” he said.
Abubakar reminded that on the day the application for bail came up, all the parties were ready to proceed.
He added that Maina served the agency an application he filed on Jan. 15, and a further affidavit early in the morning before the sitting.
He argued that in all the applications, the deponents stated that they had met Maina and he informed them of the statements and positions made in these processes.
“In the light of all these, our humble submission is that the 1st defendant (Maina) is ready for every thing else except the opening of his defence in the trial.
“It is also very clear from this affidavits that his team of counsel has free access to him and have been having interview sessions with him,” he said.
The lawyer, who opposed the request, said it was “tantamount to stay of proceeding which is not allow in line with Section 306 of ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice Act), 2015.”
Abubakar also said that there was a subsisting order of court that the matter should proceed in the absence of Maina and that this order had neither been set aside by the court not vacated by the Appeal Court.
He said he did not discuss the adjournment issue with Maina’s lawyer but that he (Katu) only informed him of his intention, because “I did not make any commitment in that regard.”
However, Katu argued that he was not asking for a stay of proceeding in the matter but an adjournment to enable his prepare for the defence.
He said though Maina was in court, he was having serious medical challenge.
“I am seeing the defendant applicant (Maina) for the first time now. I have not gone to prison to see him,” he said.
In his ruling, Justice Abang noted that though there was a subsisting order of the court to continue hearing the matter which was yet to be set aside, the court had a discretionary power to grant or refuse a plea for an adjournment.
“The court must look at the justice of the case and take a decision that will take into consideration the competing rights of parties,” he held.
Citing Section 396(4) of the constitution, Justice Abang granted Maina’s prayer as argued by his counsel.
He adjourned the matter until Feb. 19 for Maina to open his defence and for all pending applications to heard.
Maina (1st defendant) was arraigned before Justice Abang, on Oct. 25, 2019, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd (2nd defendant).
He pleaded not guilty to the 12-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.