By Taiye Agbaje
A Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday, dismissed the application filed by Sen. Ali Ndume, seeking an order to discharge him as Abdulrasheed Maina’s surety, after he jumped bail.
Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling, held that the application filed by Ndume amounted to an abuse of court process, having filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal, Abuja on the same matter.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Maina, chairman, defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), had, around September 2020, jumped bail after he was released from Kuje Correctional Service Centre on July 27 nine months after he was arraigned.
The ex-pension reformed boss was, however, rearrested in Niger Republic, where he was alleged to have fled to, by security forces and produced in court on Dec. 4, 2020.
His release on bail was made possible following Ndume’s resolve to stand as his surety after the lawmaker used his Abuja property’s title documents worth N500 million as bail bond in compliance with some of the bail conditions.
Ruling, Justice Abang, who said he had considered the arguments of both parties in the suit, held that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the lawmaker’s application dated Dec. 15, 2020.
“Where an appeal has been filed, every application will be made before the Court of Appeal.
“Therefore, any issue can only be entertained by the Court of Appeal,” he ruled.
The judge said the fact that Maina, who jumped bail, was produced in court did not mean that the court, as presently constituted, could hear Ndume’s motion.
Abang stressed that since the issue of forfeiture of bail bond is already before the appellant court and the appeal entered, “the court is functus officio to hear the matter.”
According to him, since the appeal is already pending, I have no jurisdiction to carry out a surgical operation on what is before the Court of Appeal.
“Where this happens, the court has the power to dismiss it,” hevadded.
The judge, then, dismissed the application.
NAN reports that Ndume, who is currently Chairman, Senate Committee on Army at the National Assembly, had, on July 19, through his lawyer, Marcel Oru, prayed the court for an order, releasing his building’s Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) used as bail bond in the release of Maina.
He also asked the court to discharge him formally as a surety in the matter, considering the fact that Maina, “who jumped bail has been rearrested and is in the custody of the complainant (EFCC).”
However, the then counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abubakar, opposed the application.
Abubakar argued that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the matter was already before the Court of Appeal.
NAN reports that Justice Abang had, on Jan. 28, 2020, varied Maina’s bail from N1 billion to N500 million, following his inability to meet the earlier terms which he considered too stringent.
Abang also ordered Maina to produce a serving senator as surety who must own a property worth N500 million in either Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II, Central Business District or Katampe Districts in Abuja.
This was against two serving senators he was earlier ordered to produce on Nov. 24, 2019 as a condition for granting bail.
The lawmaker then indicated interest to stand as his surety, but Maina stopped attending court proceedings in September 2020.
On Oct. 2, 2020 when the matter came up, the judge asked Ndume, who was always in court, if he knew where Maina was after he had failed to attend proceeding for the third time, the lawmaker responded that he did not know his whereabouts.
The senator, however, begged the court to reconsider him, saying that was the first time he would be standing as surety in court.
“I did not foresee this circumstances my lord.
“I want it to also be on record that as a senator, I represent the good, the bad and the ugly of the constituency.
“Right now, my hands are tight,” he had said.
When Ndume begged the court for a review of the conditions, Abang directed the registrar of the court to read out the affidavit deposed to by the lawmaker on May 5, 2020, as surety where in paragraph nine, he pledged to always produce Maina in court and forfeit the bail bond of N500 million to the Federal Government should Maina jumped bail.
This development made the EFCC counsel to ask the court, on Nov. 18, 2020, to revoke Maina’s bail, issue a warrant for his arrest and continue his trial in absentia.
Abubakar, on Nov. 23, 2020, also prayed the court to make an order for his surety, Sen. Ndume, to forfeit the N500 million bail bond or be committed to prison pending when he was able to pay the money into the federation account or produce Maina, who was alleged to have jumped bail.
Justice Abang granted EFCC’s prayers and ordered Ndume to be remanded in prison, pending when he fulfilled either of the three conditions contained in the order.
However, after spending about four days at Kuje Prison, Ndume was released on bail following his lawyer’s application at the Court of Appeal against his remand, along with an application for his bail before Justice Abang.
The senator, who was granted bail based on his record of good behaviour before the court and the discretionary powers of the court, was ordered to produce one surety who must be a responsible person and a resident of Abuja and must present evidence of ownership of a landed property anywhere within the FCT.
In addition, the surety must also depose to an affidavit of means to indicate his readiness to forfeit the bail guaranty should the senator jump bail, among others.(NAN)