Alleged pension fraud: Court fails to rule on Maina’s bail variation plea
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, failed to deliver a ruling on the application by the Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, for variation of his bail conditions.
The judge, Okon Abang, who made this known during the proceeding, said the ruling, though was not ready, it was still within time.
Mr Abang, however, frowned at a Thursday’s newspaper publication, which he described as “contemptuous.”
NAN observed that in the newspaper’s reports, one Nnamdi Nkwocha, the convener of Citizens Watch Nigeria, had, in a news conference, said to have pleaded for variation of Mr Maina’s bail conditions while eulogising Mr Abang.
The judge said the court registrar had called his attention to the publication before sitting in the morning.
When Mr Maina’s case was called, Mr Abang directed the registrar to read out the said publication in the open court.
“Behold, it was a publication concerning a case that was set down for ruling today for variation of the bail conditions of Abdulrasheed Maina,” the judge remarked.
Unhappy with the report, Mr Abang said the move was to influence the decision of the court.
According to the judge, I consider the publication to be contemptuous of this court.
With this publication, he said, this court is being threatened.
“It is trying to influence or prejudice the minds of the court to deliver ruling in a particular way by relying on extraneous issues that are totally irrelevant to the issues placed before the court for adjudication,” he said.
The judge held that the publication was a direct violation of Section 133 Subsection 4 of the Criminal Code and that any one that was guilty of the offence was liable to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
He pointed out that he had planned to order the editor and the reporter of the newspaper to appear before the court to show cause while contempt proceedings should not be commenced before another court asked them to disclose the sponsors of the publication and their intention, considering the nature of the matter.
“But having considered the persuasive arguments of the counsel representing the prosecution and the defence, I will leave the newspaper, its staff and sponsors to their conscience,” he said
The judge, however, cautioned against analysing a judge in the discharge of his duty.
Earlier, the EFCC lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, had urged Mr Abang to “disregard the publication and deliver the ruling whenever it is ready since there is no indication that either party is involved in the news conference or publication.”
He also described the publication as “contempt of court.”
Mohammed Monguno, Counsel to Mr Maina, said he had confidence in the court that it would deliver justice without fear or favour.
Also speaking, Counsel to 2nd defendant (Common Input Investment and Property Ltd.), Adeola Adedipe, adopted the submission by counsel to the prosecution and Maina.
“They have already covered the field but by way of addition, I like to assure the court of our support and cooperation in this matter.
“That whether proximately or remotely, we will not connect, associate or affiliated with anything that will denigrate the court.
“We are ministers in the temple of justice and we shall remain so for all intents and purposes,” Mr Adedipe said.
Mr Abang had, on December 18, 2019, adjourned the hearing on the bail variation application till January 13.
On January 13, Mr Abang again adjourned the hearing till January 14 and after the proceeding, he adjourned to deliver a ruling on the matter on January 23.
Mr Abang had, on November 25, admitted Mr Maina to bail in the sum of N1 billion.
The judge, who gave the ruling, also ordered that Mr Maina must produce two sureties who must be serving senators.
The two lawmakers, according to the judge, must not be standing any criminal trial in any court in the country and must have landed property at Maitama or Asokoro area of Abuja.
He also ruled that the two sureties, who must be prepared for a N500 million bond each, must always be in court with the defendant at each adjourned date.
However, Mr Maina had been unable to meet the bail conditions.