The absence of the trial judge, Abubakar Kutigi stalled the pension fund fraud trial of the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) Abdulrasheed Maina on Wednesday.
The matter was billed to come up at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in Jabi, Abuja, on Wednesday.
Earlier convicted by the Federal High Court in Abuja in November 2021 for embezzling N2 billion pension fund, Mr Maina is currently serving an eight-year jail term at a prison in Abuja.
While his jail term continues, Mr Maina faces a separate trial at the FCT High Court on charges of stealing N738million pension fund belonging to the federal government.
He faces nine counts along with a co-defendant, Ann Olachi, in the case brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
PREMIUM TIMES recalls that the trial judge had, on February 22, deferred the hearing because of the failure of the officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Abuja, where Mr Maina is serving a prison sentence, to produce him in court.
The judge, at the previous proceedings, cited a letter he received from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja, concerning Mr Maina, but did not read out the content to provide clarity about Mr Maina’s whereabouts.
PREMIUM TIMES would later exclusively obtain a copy of the letter dated February 18, 2022, showing various health conditions Mr Maina was battling with, and the medical appointments already scheduled for him by the hospital.
Mr Maina was present in court for the resumed hearing of his case on Wednesday. Our reporter saw him on the court premises in company with officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Abuja.
Ms Olachi, the second defendant, was also present in court.
However, the court postponed the case because the judge was absent.
Although no reason was offered for the judge’s absence, the court’s cause list indicated that the case was rescheduled for July 7 for the continuation of the trial.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had, in November last year, jailed Mr Maina for eight years for money laundering involving the diversion of N2 billion in pension funds.
The trial judge, Okon Abang, had convicted Mr Maina on all the 12 counts of money laundering filed against him by the EFCC.
The trial at the Federal High Court began just about a month before the ongoing trial at the FCT High Court started in November 2019. But repeated complaints of ill health stalled the latter.
Following his repeated absence from court, the judge, in November 2020, declared him to have jumped bail.
As a result, the judge imprisoned his surety, Ali Ndume, a serving senator, for some days.
Security agents later rearrested Mr Maina in Niger Republic and brought him back to Nigeria in December 2020 for him to continue his trial.
In the ongoing case at the FCT High Court, the EFCC charged him and his co-defendant, Ms Olachi, with nine counts of stealing various sums of money totalling N738 million belonging to the federal government.
The prosecution alleged that the defendants stole the funds under the guise of payments for the contract for biometric enrollment of pensioners and payments for allowances, among others.
Some offences were said to be punishable under Section 317 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, vol. 4, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, 2007.
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