The Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, was again absent from the Federal High Court in Abuja where his trial on N2bn money laundering charges was scheduled to continue on Monday.
His absence from court on Monday was the fourth in a row since September 29 when the defendant’s trial was scheduled to resume in the court’s new legal year.
The judge, Justice Okon Abang, was absent from Monday’s proceedings.
The prosecuting and defense lawyers were present in court on Monday.
Maina’s bail surety, Senator Ali Ndume, who had last Friday, told the court that he could no longer find the defendant, was present in court too.
But the trial could not be held because of the absence of both the judge and Maina.
Lawyers and litigants present in court had waited for over an hour before a court official announced the packed courtroom that the judge would not be sitting.
The official said the judge was indisposed, adding that he had been instructed to have all cases on the cause list including that of Maina till Tuesday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Maina on 12 counts of money laundering involving about N2bn.
At the previous sitting on Friday, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah, told the judge that the commission’s investigation had revealed that Maina was not at the hospital he claimed he was admitted.
He contended the development showed that the defendant had jumped bail.
He urged the court to issue a warrant of arrest against Maina and a summon on Ndume to show cause why he should not forfeit the bail bond.
The judge had ordered Maina to provide a serving senator as a surety for the bail granted him.
The judge had, following Maina’s repeated requests, twice varied the bail conditions, reducing the bail sum from the original N1bn to N500m with only one surety as opposed two originally requested by the court.
The only surety who must be a serving senator must be ready to accompany the defendant to court and sign the court’s register of attendance for every hearing session, the judge had ordered.
Ndume who represents Borno South Senatorial District where Maina hails from later agreed to serve as the defendant’s surety.
In line with terms and conditions of the bail which the judge gave in January 2020, Ndume gave legal commitment to accompany the defendant to court every trial date and provided the court with the title documents of his property worth N500m in a choice area of Abuja as a guarantee.
He said he was expecting Maina to be in court on Friday following an earlier assurance by the defendant’s wife.
Asked by the judge if he knew the defendant’s whereabouts, the senator said, “My lord, I must confess, I do not know.”
The senator who recalled that he agreed to serve as Maina’s surety following pleas by the defendant’s wife and uncle, also said, “I did not foresee these circumstances, my lord”.
The senator pleaded for time to enable him to find the defendant, following which the judge had adjourned till Monday.