CRIME

As Court Remands Ndume, Nigerians Question Why Abaribe Walks Free

While appreciating the thorough disposition of the courts to remand Ali Mohammed Ndume, citizens are asking why same seriousness has not been exhibited with regards to Nnamdi Kanu whom Senator Abaribe stood surety for. The chairman of the Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army, and controversial supporter of “the Social Media Bill”, APC Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume, has been ordered to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre for failing to present to the court, Abdulrasheed Maina, the embattled former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (defunct) whom he stood surety for in a corruption case. Maina was appointed to chair the Pension Task Team to deal with the notorious cases of corruption bedeviling Pension by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, but within two years on the job, he is alleged by Ibrahim Magu’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to have stolen as much as ₦100 billion.

Maina had been dismissed from the civil service in 2013 for absconding from duty. The EFCC in 2015 added to him to their wanted list for being involved in criminal behaviour that led to the disappearance of more than ₦100 billion.

Surprisingly however, Maina was given an appointment as Director in a department in the Ministry of Interior, in 2017. A move that incensed most observers and led to protest against it on numerous fronts. In response, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, ordered his immediate dismissal and investigations into the allegations against him.

Maina however went into hiding, and remained largely incommunicado. A situation that the opposition harped on as the current administration helping to cover up cases of “political allies”. The EFCC was constantly reminded that it had failed to prosecute Maina but vigorously goes against political opponents of the Buhari administration.

Fortunately, the State Security Service, DSS, at a hotel in Abuja, on the 1st of October last year, arrested Maina as he sneaked into the country from Dubai, UAE. He was subsequently arraigned in court on the 25th of the same month on twelve counts charges for money laundering. He was remanded in custody as a result, until 28th July 2020 when Ndume helped him to meet his bail terms.

Senator Ndume had in June this year accepted to stand surety for Maina, to enable him to be granted a bail. This became possible after the Federal High Court in Abuja twice watered down the confotionc of bail. Justice Abang had insisted that Ndume being surety to Maina, must also be present at every trial of Maina, warning the defendant not to jump bail as there will be dire consequences.

Ndume, in white, recently during a meeting by leaders from the North East geopolitical zone

A Federal High Court judge, Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo, had in October last year, ordered that 23 properties belonging to or linked to Maina in Abuja, Borno State, Sokoto State, and Kaduna State, be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Maina had however, in a letter addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on 31st August this year, alleged that his trial was being orchestrated by Ibrahim Magu, saying that it is a witch-hunt. Maina begged the AGF to review the criminal charges against him. He alleged that Magu was particularly interested in targeting him because he had informed the AGF to ask Magu to account for the money recovered from the Pension Reform Task Team thus far.

But following Maina’s consistent absence from the court, Ndume was asked to present Maina, which the Senator has so far failed to do. Early last month, Ndume had begged the court to give him some time to enable him reach Maina. He also disclosed that he had invited the police to assist him in finding Maina. Maina’s counsel, Oronsaye, however, claimed that his client was sick and admitted at Maitama General Hospital in Abuja. A video went viral of Maina speaking from a hospital bed that he has “constant rise in blood pressure”. He said he will require six weeks to recover.

Ndume thereafter aired his regret for standing surety for Maina. Tired of Maina’s tricks, Ndume on 19th October this year, begged Justice Okon Abang to issue an arrest warrant against Maina, as all his efforts to get Maina to appear in court, including reaching out to the head of the State Security Service, the Police authority, and others, have proved abortive. He said he was ready to forfeit his freedom to ensure that the defendant is arrested and brought to the court, as he cannot take the law into his own hands and cannot drag Maina to court physically. In response, Justice Abang told him that he should be aware that such request will only be carried out after he as a surety is remanded in custody.

Today, 23rd November 2020, in a bench ruling, Justice Abang ordered that Senator Ndume be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre for as long as it will take for him to pay the bail bond of ₦500 million or the Federal Government will be able to sell the property he deposed, before he is granted his freedom.

Justice Abang also adjourned the trial of Maina, in absentia, to 24th November, 2020 which is tomorrow.

Meanwhile, many Nigerians even as they applaud the ruling, ask why Senator Abaribe from Abia State, who stood surety for Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), accused of treason and incitement, still goes about free after more than two years of the fugitive jumping bail.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe had in January this year approached the Appeal Court in Abuja, to grant him relief of his bail responsibility as he claimed that his position as a surety was no longer tenable. But Justice Binta Nyarko stood firm, insisting that the senator and the two others who stood surety for Kanu, must pay their bail bonds, and provided them with six months interim period to do so.

It is not clear if Abaribe and any of the two others, have paid all or part of their bail bonds. Abaribe’s bond is ₦100 Million.

Abaribe had claimed that the Federal Government had abducted Nnamdi Kanu, and said that they had attacked his family compound in Abia through the Nigerian Army, killed several people, injured Nnamdi Kanu, and took him to unknown destination. Facts later emerged that the senator was far from the truth. Kanu himself was later found to have actually ran away from the country.

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