A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday rejected another request by Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), for an adjournment to prepare for his defence. Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling, said though the decision to grant the application was at court’s discretion, such plea was a ploy to waste the judicial time of the court. Maina had, through his counsel, Abel Adaji, on Dec. 4, prayed the court for a short adjournment to allow him get a brief from his client to enable him do the needful, and Justice Abang adjourned the trial continuation for today.
At the resumed hearing, the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, informed the court that the matter was slated for continuation of the evidence of the ninth prosecution witness (PW9), Rouqquaya Ibrahim, who is an EFCC investigator, in the case.
However, Anayo Adibe, who represented Maina as counsel at the sitting, objected to the call for trial continuation on the grounds that the legal team was just taking over the case and needed adequate time to prepare. He said though they applied for the court record, in a letter to the court registry, they were yet to get it. However, the judge, who corrected him that the last counsel did not apply for the court record, said he only applied for a short date in order to be briefed by Maina. Adibe then explained that the next working day after the adjournment, “we did the needful.” “We apply to the registry of this honourable court for the record of proceedings as at the last date to be made available,” he said.
The lawyer further explained that they also applied to the counsel who withdrew his appearance for Maina to oblige them with the copy of the charge sheet and other documents in relation to the trial. He urged the court to accord Maina the constitutional right to be defended by counsel of his choice and be given adequate time and facility for his defence. He cited Section 349(3) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to back his argument on allowing Maina reasonable time to engage counsel of his choice. Abdullah disagreed with Adibe, saying his application was misplaced. “We are surprised the counsel is taking us back from where we took off from,” he said.
He said he was aware of the provision of Section 36 of the constitution as it related to the rights of Maina. According to him, this court has safeguarded this rights, urging the judge to look at the record of proceedings from the inception of the trial. The anti-graft agency’s lawyer argued that Maina had been given all the rights and facilities that should be made available to him and had always been represented by counsel up to the last day the counsel withdrew. He said though a change of counsel was a right the defendant could enjoy if he wished, such right should not truncate the due administration of criminal justice regime. He also argued that the provision of Section 349(3) was inapplicable in the case at hand because Maina had legal representation before now.