Alleged N2bn fraud: Court orders probe into Maina’s ill-health claim

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday ordered the Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (Prisons) in charge of Welfare and Medical to conduct a thorough examination of the former chairman of defunct Police Pension Task Force, Dr Abdulrasheed Maina, to ascertain his health status.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina, alongside a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, allegedly linked with him on a 12-count criminal charge, bordering on fraud, abuse of public office and money laundering of about N2 billion.

At the resumed trial yesterday before Justice Okon Abang, counsel to the former pension boss, Francis Orosanya informed the court that the Maina’s absence in court to face his trial was as a result of ill health.

Consequently, a prison staff tendered a medical report endorsed by one Dr Idowu Ajayi of the Nigerian Correctional Service, which indicated why Maina, the first defendant in the matter was indisposed.

Though Mohammed Abubakar, the prosecution counsel opposed the medical report as a basis for the request for an adjournment, Justice Abang used the court’s discretion to adjourn the matter to November 7, for the continuation of trial.

In his ruling, Justice Abang noted that, in either criminal or civil proceeding, a court of law may exercise its discretion to adjourn, but that it was not mandatory for a court to adjourn sitting.

“The medical report issued by a Doctor from the Nigerian Correctional Service is supposed to assist the court but it did not. The report ought to have stated the period of time the 1st defendant will be indisposed. The Doctor did not specify how long the 1st defendant will absent himself from the trial.

“Medical report cannot be used to stay proceeding in a criminal trial. The medical report is speculative and subjective” the court held and consequently, made an order compelling the Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (Prisons) in charge of Welfare and Medical to examine Maina and submit a report on the next adjourned date.

The court also dismissed an application by Maina’s counsel seeking the prosecution to tender the medical report of his client while in the custody of the EFCC.

Justice Abang in dismissing the application as lacking in merit, held that no evidence was tendered before the court that such report or examination was carried out on the 1st defendant while in the custody of the EFCC.

Meanwhile, concerted effort by Maina’s counsel to force the court to adjourn proved abortive as Justice Abang ordered counsel to move his bail application.

The court had earlier fixed November 19, for argument on Maina’s bail application but had to abridge the time to November 5, since Maina’s lawyer had withdrawn the first bail application filed by Ahmed Raji (SAN), who previously represented Maina in the case.

With the 2nd bail application filed by Joe Gadzama (SAN) subsisting, the court asked Maina’s lawyer to move his application but he declined, insisting that the prosecution raised new facts in its counter-affidavit that would warrant him to respond to.

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The prosecution opposed the oral application for adjournment.

The ruling court noted that the bail application of the 1st defendant was ripe for hearing since the prosecution counsel’s counter-affidavit was filed and served on the Maina’s lawyer on October 30.

“Counsel to the 1st defendant has himself to blame. He failed to avail himself that opportunity granted by the court for him to have unfettered access to the 1st defendant in custody of the EFCC.

“The 1st defendant is ordered to move his bail application which is ripe for hearing”, the court held.

However, Orasanya insisted he was not prepared to move the bail application, a development that made the court to order the prosecution counsel to move his counter-affidavit and written address in opposition to the bail application.

The EFCC lawyer moved his counter-affidavit, and the court deemed the bail application as moved and subsequently fixed November 7, for the ruling.

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