Counsel to Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman, defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) and Maina’s firm, the 2nd defendant in the money laundering trial, on Monday abandoned the court proceeding.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, where Maina is facing a 12-count charge, made the remark in his ruling on Tuesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had, on Oct. 25, charged Maina (1st defendant) before the court alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd on money laundering offences.
He had, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
NAN reports that Justice Abang, had, on Monday, adjourned trial continuation shortly after the court ordered Sen. Ali Ndume, who stood as surety for Maina, to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre over his inability to produce the 1st defendant to stand his trial.
The court also ordered that the trial should continued in Maina’s absence.
It would be recalled that since the commencement of the case, some lawyers, including Joe Gadzama, SAN; Ahmed Raji, SAN; Afam Osigwe; Adeola Adedipe; Mark Agbo and Francis Oronsaye had argued Maina and his company’s case.
Although Oronsaye appeared for Maina yesterday, no lawyer appeared for the 2nd defendant (his firm).
At the resumed hearing today, when the court register called the case, no counsel represented either Maina or his firm. The EFCC’s Lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, was, however, in court.
Abubakar informed the court that the matter was adjourned until today (Nov. 24) for further cross examination of the 6th prosecution witness( PW6) by the counsel to 1st defendant (Maina).
He said the counsel was yet to conclude his cross examination and no excuse was offered for his absence.
“I, therefore, urge my lord to foreclose further cross examination by counsel to 1st defendant,” he said.
On counsel to the 2nd defendant, Abubakar said the lawyer must have abandoned the cross examination of the PW6 because he had not been appearing for the sittings since July 20.
In his ruling, the judge noted that counsel to 1st defendant (Maina) crossed examined the PW6 on July 2 before the matter was adjourned for further cross examination of the witness.
He said since then till Nov. 24, the counsel that cross examined the witness abandoned proceedings.
The judge, therefore. ordered the closure of further cross examination of PW6 by counsel to Maina.
According to him, because he commenced cross examination, the matter is not foreclosed but rather closed.
Also, the judge said counsel to the 2nd defendant ought to have been in court on July 20 to know when the matter was adjourned to.
He said the lawyer was not in court on Sept. 29, Sept. 30, Oct 2, Oct19, Nov. 18 and Nov. 23 of the adjourned dates and offered no excuse for his absence.
“It was further adjourned till today for continuation of trial.
“Learned counsel is not in court and offered no excuse for being absence,” he said.
According to him, it is my view that he has abandoned proceedings and will have himself to blame.
Justice Abang then granted the EFCC’s prayer to foreclose the cross examination of the PW6 by counsel to 2nd defendant.
The judge, who discharged the PW6 from witness box, ordered the prosecution to call the next witness.
Two witnesses; one Ali Sani, an Estate Developer in Abuja (PW7) and Ibrahim Abdulkareem, a federal civil servant (PW8), gave their evidence-in-chief before the court.
The EFCC’s lawyer urged the court to foreclose the rights of counsel to 1st and 2nd defendants to cross examination the witnesses and it was granted.
Justice Abang then adjourned the matter until Nov. 25 , for continuation of trial.