The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the remand of Senator Ali Ndume in prison over his inability to produce a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who has jumped bail, stalling his ongoing N2bn money laundering trial since September.
Justice Okon Abang ordered that the Borno South senator, who stood as surety for Maina would only be released from prison after meeting any of the three given conditions, including producing the fleeing defendant in court.
The two other options given to the senator were paying the N500m bail bond into the Federation Account with the evidence of the payment presented before the court or forfeiting to the Federal Government his property in the highbrow Asokoro, Abuja, worth N500m, which he used as security for the bail bond.
The judge gave the order following an oral application made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecuting counsel, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, earlier at the November 18, 2020 proceedings and repeated on Monday.
The prosecutor had at the November 18 proceedings argued that Maina’s absence from four previous court sessions without any reasonable explanation showed that he had jumped bail.
He applied to the court to revoke Maina’s bail, order his arrest and direct that his trial should proceed in his absence.
Also citing Section 179 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to back his prayer, Abubakar had urged the court to order the forfeiture of Ndume’s property used as security for the bail bond to the Federal Government in line with the surety’s vow in a May 5, 2020 affidavit committing himself to the forfeiture in the event that Maina jumped bail.
At the Monday’s proceedings, Ndume’s lawyer, M.O. Oru, who said he was briefed by the senator on November 19, informed the judge that he had applied for but yet to be given the certified true copies of certain seven documents which he would require to defend his client.
He sought an adjournment which was opposed by the prosecuting counsel.
The judge, in his ruling, agreed with the prosecution’s submission, adding that the court had upheld the principle of fair hearing provided for in Section 36(1) of the Nigerian Constitution by adjourning the case on a number of occasions to afford the senator enough time to either produce Maina or present his case in court.
The judge cited paragraphs 7 to 10 of Ndume’s depositions contained in a May 5, 2020 affidavit expressing his readiness to forfeit the N500m property in the event that Maina jumped bail, as “admission against interest”.
The judge said, “The defendant has jumped bail. This is the time to make good his (Ndume’s) undertaking.”
Ndume, who had been compelled by the court to be present at every court session in the trial, attended Monday’s proceedings, which lasted about three and a half hours.
He was led away out of the courtroom by prison officials at about 12.47pm shortly the court handed down the order for his remand and receded to his chambers.
Earlier during the proceedings, the judge asked Maina’s lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, where his client was, but the lawyer said he had no knowledge of his whereabouts.