Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), on Wednesday, told the Federal High Court, Abuja, that he had no case to answer in the allegations levied against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Maina, who told Justice Okon Abang shortly after the EFCC, through its counsel, Farouk Abdullah, closed its case, said he would be filing a no-case submission.
The former pension reformed boss, through his lawyer, Anayo Adibe, made his intention known after Adibe cross-examined the ninth prosecution witness (PW9), Rouqquaya Ibrahim, an EFCC investigator.
Maina (1st defendant) was arraigned before Justice Abang, on Oct. 25, 2019, by the EFCC alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd (2nd defendant).
Although he is facing 12-counts bordering on money laundering up to the tune of N2 billion, he had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Justice Abang had, on Nov. 18, ordered Maina’s arrest following his refusal to appear in court since Sept. 29 when his case resumed.
Sen. Ali Ndume (APC-Borno), who stood as his surety, was remanded in prison custody, on Nov. 23, but was later granted bail five days after on the grounds of good conduct.
Maina was, however, produced in court on Dec. 4 by security operatives after he was arrested in the Nigeria Republic and extradited to Nigeria.
Adibe at Wednesday’s proceeding told the court about the intention of his client to file a no-case application in accordance with Sections 302 and 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
He argued that the evidence tendered by the prosecution was insufficient to justify the trial of his client.
The lawyer, who asked for a period of 30 days to file the application, said to the best of his knowledge, there was no specific period stipulated in ACJA 2015 to file the motion.
He also said that there was no provision that allowed him to file a written address in support of the no-case submission.
In his ruling, Justice Abang held that it was Maina’s legal right, independent decision, and his choice to present a no-case submission.
“The prosecution has closed their case today. It is for the defendant to open his defence.
“The defendant has elected to argue or present a no-case submission,” he said.
According to him, the court cannot question his decision.
He, however, noted that Adibe said there was no provision in ACJA that allowed him to file a written address in support of the application and no provision that limited him to file a formal application.
The judge, then, ordered the parties to address the court orally.
Hé adjourned the matter until Dec. 10 for the defendant to argue his no-case submission and for the prosecution to respond to the same orally.
Earlier during the cross-examination, Maina’s counsel, Adibe asked the witness if she knew all the members of the PRTT which his client headed as chairman.
The PW9 said though she did not know all the members of the team, she said she knew the two EFCC’s personnel seconded to the Maina team.
“I know of one colonel Sule, now deceased, and the other person who I could not recollect. He replaced Colonel Sule,” she said.
She said that the extent of her knowledge as regards the budget of PRTT was very sketchy.
When Adibe asked if she was aware that about 50 of the anti-corruption agency’s personnel were seconded to the pension reformed team, Rouqquaya said 50 EFCC officers were never seconded to the team.
According to Adibe, they were seconded to conduct biometrics for workers both inside and outside the country.
The witness responded thus: “Secondment is a civil service procedure where a staff of one government agency is seconded to another government agency for two years based on that person’s expertise.
“Biometrics does not fall under that secondment. I believe what the counsel is asking for is the verification of pensioners carried out by some EFCC staff together with other government agencies.”
Adibe told the judge that he asked the question to correct the statement by Rouqquaya that his client conducted illegal biometrics.
Maina’s lawyer also asked the witness if she knew Mohammed Goje, Nura Buhari, Halim Kazir, who he said were EFCC’s staff and Rouqquaya acknowledged knowing them.
She said though she did not know a name called Nura Ningi as EFCC staff, the witness said one Zainab was a policewoman attached to the commission but could not tell if she had been redeployed to the police.
Adibe also asked the PW9 if she was aware that money running into several millions of naira was released to these EFCC’s staff for conducting the biometrics abroad.
According to her, I am not aware that millions of naira were paid to operatives of EFCC to conduct biometrics outside the country.
“What I am aware of is official estacode paid by the government to those who travelled for the verification of pensioners.
“And the reason I am aware of this is that I am personally aware of Mohammed Goje’s trip,” she said.
The EFCC investigator said she was not aware that some of the operatives of the agency made any refund for not travelling, considering that Adibe did not mention the names of the affected officers and she was not part of the making of any refund.
When the lawyer asked her if she knew Ibrahim Larmode, the witness said Mr. Larmode was former EFCC chairman.
“Can you confirm if Ibrahim Larmode was among those seconded,” he asked.
“Mr. Larmode was not seconded to PRTT,” she responded.
When Adibe asked if Larmode was part of the PRTT, the witness said: “I wouldn’t know.”
She, however, said she stood by her testimony earlier given that a company carried out a semblance of the biometrics contract but the majority of payments made out from the pension office to these companies were non-existence.
She insisted that Maina personally benefitted from the payments and that some of these companies were presently standing trial.
When Adibe put it to him that Maina’s personal accounts were not subject of the EFCC’s investigation, Rouqquaya disagreed saying “the 1st defendant’s personal accounts were subject of our investigation.”
Justice Abang ordered the foreclosure of the rights of the 2nd defendant, Maina’s firm, to cross-examine the PW9 because it was not represented in court by any lawyer as prayed for by the EFCC’s counsel, Abdullah.