The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, arraigned Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The commission also arraigned his son, Faisal, before the court.
Maina is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency on a 12-count charge bordering “money laundering, operating fictitious bank accounts and fraud.”
Counsel to the EFCC, Mohammed Abubakar, told the judge that the 12-count charge was dated Oct. 16 and filed on Oct. 17.
However, Maina pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against him by the EFCC.
In accordance with the provision of Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, 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.
On his part, Ahmed Raji, SAN, who announced appearance for Maina, interjected by drawing the court’s attention to the defendant’s bail application dated Oct. 22, which he had filed prior to the defendant’s arraignment.
However, the effort of Ahmed Raji to have the court hear Maina’s bail application was opposed by the prosecution counsel for being 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 that 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 arraignment of the defendant in court.
Consequently, the court asked Maina’s lawyer, Raji for his reaction on Section 356(1) of ACJA, which the court raised sumoto, which provides that bail application must be filed after 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 has not had time to discuss with the defendant, saying he was only giving 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 painstakingly listened to the submissions of prosecution and defence counsel, the court adjourned the case to Oct. 30, for commencement of trial and ordered the EFCC to remand Maina in the Nigerian Correctional Service centre.
Meanwhile, Faisal, Maina’s son, was also docked on a three-count charge bordering on money laundering.
Abubakar, the EFCC’s lawyer, urged Justice Abang to allow the commission keep Faisal in police custody at Police Tactical Squad, Asokoro, based on the investigation on allegation of possession of firearms and resistance to arrest.
The judge, therefore, ordered the EFCC to keep Faisal in police custody pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Justice Abang adjourned the case till Nov. 6 for trial to start. (NAN)