Maina’s illness stalls fraud trial

An official of the Correctional Service Centre, Kuje, Abuja, said in a letter sent to the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday that Abdulrasheed Maina  had fallen  ill in custody.

Justice Okon Abang said in the letter handed to him after Maina’s absence was noticed in court on Tuesday read  that “the first defendant is indisposed, unable and not fit to appear in court but will do so when his condition improves”.

The letter was said to  have been  signed by a medical officer at the Kuje Correctional Service Centre, Idowu Ajayi.

Justice Okon Abang on October 25 ordered the  former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team to be remanded in Kuje prison shortly after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned him and a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited, on 12 counts bordering on money laundering and fraud.

Following the  judge’s acknowledgment of the letter, Maina’s lawyer, Francis Oronsanye, urged the court to adjourn the trial till  next week, saying  the defendant would have recovered from the undisclosed ailment by then.

The second defendant’s counsel, Adeola Adedipe, agreed with Oronsaye.

But the prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, opposed the request as he faulted the truthfulness of the content of the letter.

He said instead of instead of adjourning till next week, the court should adjourn till Thursday which is one of the days already scheduled for the trial by the judge.

Abubakar also urged the court to compel the Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Correctional Service in charge of Medical and Welfare to personally examine Maina and submit a  report of his health conditions to the court.

Ruling, the judge noted that the letter from prison was not helpful as it did not disclose when Maina would be able to resume his trial.

He acceded to the prosecution’s request by ordering the Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Correctional Service in charge of Medical and Welfare to examine Maina and send the report to the court at the next hearing date.

Justice Abang adjourned till November  7 for continuation of trial and ruling on Maina’s bail application.

Oronsaye had  refused to adopt his client’s bail application on the grounds that the defence team had not had access to the defendant since October 25, when he was arraigned and ordered to be detained in prison.

But Justice Abang held that the bail application was deemed adopted and argued by Maina.

He said the court was not to blame for the defence lawyers’ inability to meet with their client.

Lawyer for the EFCC, Abubakar, opposed the bail application.