A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday rejected another request by former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, for an adjournment to prepare for his defence.
In a ruling, Justice Okon Abang held that though the decision to grant the application was at court’s discretion, such a plea was a ploy to waste the judicial time of the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Maina had, through his counsel, Abel Adaji, on December 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 till on Tuesday.
At the resumed hearing, lawyer to the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), 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.
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.
But the judge, who corrected him that the last counsel did not apply for the court’s record, said he only applied for a short date in order to be briefed by Maina.
Adibe averred 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 cited Section 349(3) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to back his argument on the need for Maina to get reasonable time to engage counsel of his choice.
Abdullah disagreed with Adibe, saying his application was misplaced.
The EFCC’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.
Abdullah said though 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.
“On Friday (December 4), one lawyer withdrew and another lawyer came into the picture.
“It presupposes that Section 349(3) is inapplicable here,” he said.
Abdullah, who said the justice of the case was for the matter to proceed, insisted that he was ready to proceed.
In his ruling, Justice Abang noted that since the matter resumed on September 29, Maina had not been appearing in court until a bench warrant was issued against him and he was produced in court on December 4 by security operatives.
The judge said the issue of fair hearing was not applicable in the case because Maina was not just coming into the matter for the first time.
“The first defendant (Maina) jumped bail without reason to do so,” Justice Abang held.
The judge also clarified that if Maina’s new counsel needed the case file, it was expected that the former counsel would hand over the file to the new lawyer.
Justice Abang, who stressed that Maina had been offered adequate opportunity and time for his defence, refused to grant his application.