Pension Fraud: Maina gets Ndume as surety — Lawyer

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

The senator representing Borno south, Ali Ndume, has agreed to act as a surety for the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina.

Mr Maina said this to a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.

Mr Maina is accused of diverting N100 billion of pension funds and is facing trial for alleged money laundering. He is being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 12-count charge and is also accused of operating fictitious accounts and carrying out other fraudulent activities.

The former PRTT chairman, who was in hiding for almost two years, was arrested by the State Security Service last year.

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

His son, Faisal, who was arrested alongside the father in September, is accused of operating an account he used to divert various sums of money, including N58 million.

The two men were arraigned by the EFCC on October 25 on separate charges. They pleaded not guilty.

Bail conditions

The court on November 25, 2019, admitted the former pension chairman to bail at N1 billion.

Justice Okon Abang, who gave the ruling, also ordered that Mr Maina should produce two sureties who must be serving senators.

The judge said the two lawmakers must not be standing criminal trial in any court in the country.

He also ruled that the two sureties, who must be prepared for an N500 million bond each, must always be in court with the defendant at each adjourned date.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how on January 28, Justice Abang reduced the bail bond of the former PRTT chairman from N1 billion to N500 million.

Mr Maina had on January 13 told the court that he could not meet the stringent conditions of the bail granted him in November.

Still not able to meet the adjusted bail conditions, Mr Maina in an application dated February 10, asked the court to further vary the bail conditions.

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But in a ruling on Mr Maina’s bail variation application on April 29, Justice Abang held that the former PRTT chairman failed to provide sufficient material before the court to prove that he was unable to meet his bail condition, which includes a serving senator as surety.

Court Session

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Mr Maina’s lawyer, Joe Gadzama, informed the court that Mr Ndume has agreed to act as surety for the former PRTT chairman.

Mr Gadzama, however, said one condition had not been fully complied with, which is why the defendant is seeking a variation of the bail terms which was previously reviewed.

He said the condition is that of the surety having a certificate of occupancy of landed property in Abuja.

“In a desperate move to get freedom and liberty, we filed an application before the Court of Appeal in Abuja,” he said.

“Finally, Senator Ndume agreed to stand as a surety which made us withdraw the appeal by filing a notice of discontinuance. The applicant has met all the conditions but only one, which is that the surety must have a certificate of occupancy,” he said.

“The surety has submitted a certificate of occupancy of a landed property but it is not In his name. It is in the name of Lawal Ahmed. But the owner is Ndume who purchased it from Lawal Ahmed.

“In addition, there is a certified irrevocable power of attorney by Lawal to Ndume. It is as good as the certificate and supersedes the certificate because it is the latest in time.”

Mr Maina’s lawyer said in the Federal Capital Territory, once a certificate of occupancy is issued in a person’s name by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), that name cannot be changed even when another person acquires the property.

“The only way to show new power of ownership is by issuing irrevocable power of attorney,” he said.

“The court has granted bail earlier and the court would be joyful to see the applicant enjoy the bail.

“The only reason why he is still being incarcerated is that the court said it has to be a certificate of occupancy in the name of the surety. We ask my lord to temper justice with mercy.”

Mr Gadzama also informed the court of the ill health of his client.

“This gentleman is very sick. He needs to see an ophthalmologist because he cannot see well. He also needs orthopaedic surgery,” the lawyer said.

“It is in the interest of parties and the public whose funds is alleged to have been tampered with for him to live and face trial.

“I urge the court to once more be magnanimous by further varying the one condition that he has been unable to meet,” he said.

Responding, the EFCC lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, urged the court to dismiss the application for further variation of the bail terms.

Mr Abdullah submitted that a “power of attorney does not convey title”.

“In the case of the FCT, it is only the president that can allocate land to an individual. The minister of the FCT exercises the power on behalf of the president,” he said.

“No individual who has enjoyed the power of allocation from the minister can allot to himself the power to further allocate or transfer that land to another.”

After listening to both lawyers, Justice Abang fixed June 29 to deliver a ruling on the defendant’s application.



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