EFCC’s application to shield witness stalls Maina’s trial

Abdulrashid Maina
Former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina

The trial of the former chairman, Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, on Tuesday was stalled due to the inability of the anti-graft agency to use screen shield for its second witness.

Mr Maina is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 12-count charge bordering on money laundering, operating fictitious accounts and other fraudulent activities.

The former PRTT chairman, who was in hiding for almost two years, was eventually arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) which had hitherto been accused of shielding him from arrest.

The SSS then handed over Mr Maina to the EFCC, which had declared him wanted for over a year.

He was arraigned on October 25 and pleaded not guilty to the 12-count charge of N100 billion pension fraud brought against him.

Hearing

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Tuesday, the prosecution lawyer, Halima Shehu, asked the court that the second prosecution witness (PW2) be allowed to testify behind a screen.

Ms Shehu said this was necessary for the interest of fair hearing.

The prosecution lawyer request came after, the first prosecution witness, Mairo Bashir, completed her evidence and was discharged from the witness box.

She anchored her application on Section 232(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

The judge, Okon Abang, however, said it would be wrong to ask the lawyer and other people in the courtroom to go out in order to set up the screening shield.

“That means you are calling for an adjournment because I cannot ask the learned counsel to leave the court,” he said.

Ms Shehu asked for an adjournment to enable the EFCC to prepare for the continuation of the trial.

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On his part, Mr Maina’s lawyer, Mohammed Monguno, did not oppose the application, so also the second defendant’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe.

Prior to this, Justice Abang adjourned to December 11, to allow the second prosecution witness to be screened as requested by the EFCC lawyer.

“Prosecution counsel shall be in court early to make adequate preparation for the screen and the matter shall be taken at 12 noon,” he said.

The judge also adjourned the trial of Faisal Maina, son of Abdulrasheed Maina, to the same day for continuation.

The judge said the adjournment was at the instance of the defence team.

“The day is far spent and since we are also coming tomorrow, I humbly ask your Lordship to adjourn till tomorrow,” Mr Monguno had asked the court.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Maina’s son was arrested alongside his father in September.

His son is accused by the EFCC of operating an account with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) which he used to divert various sums of money, including N58 million.

He also pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge filed against him.


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