BY EMEKA EJERE
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Ibrahim Magu, a former acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), have failed to appear before a Federal High Court in Abuja in respect of the trial of Abdulrasheed Maina.
Others issued with the subpoena are the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, M. Mustapha; Hassan Salihu; Mohammed Wakil; G.T Idris; Kenneth Amabem; Ibrahim Kaigama and CBN director of compliance.
Maina, the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering to the tune of ₦2 billion.
Justice Okon Abang had on Maina’s request issued a subpoena compelling the AGF, Magu and nine others to come before the court on March 9, 10 and 11 and testify for the defendant.
At the resumed sitting of the court on Wednesday, none of the compelled persons showed up as the counsel to the defendant, Sani Katu instead, moved to call another witness after the court refused his oral request to withdraw from the matter.
However, Katu informed the court that Charles Enakaeno, the prospective witness, was involved in an accident and could not make it to court.
In a bench ruling, Okon Abang berated Maina for failing to assemble his witnesses on time after being given the opportunity to do so since December 21, 2020.
Justice Abang said: “Sometime on December 21, 2020, the first defendant lead counsel, then Mr Anayo Adibe, informed the court that they intend to call 24 witnesses and that the defendant be given adequate time to assemble these witnesses.”
“The court then vacated December 22 and adjourned this matter from December 21 to January 26. More than one month for the defendant to assemble his witnesses and open his defence,” he said.
“For upwards of 76 days from December 21, 2020, the first defendant did not apply for a subpoena to compel witnesses to come to court to testify on his behalf.
“However, on Monday, March 8, 2021, in chambers, between 12;35 and 12;40 pm, the court registrar forwarded to the court in chambers, about 10 subpoenas filed by the first defendant not filed by the court, compelling about 10 persons to come to court to testify on his behalf today.
“I merely signed a subpoena based on the court of appeal decision in the case of Metuh vs FRN that compelled the court to sign a subpoena seeking to compel Colonel Dasuki to come to court and testify on behalf of Metuh.
“But ordinarily, I could not have on my own, signed a subpoena to compel an individual a day before the matter is fixed for hearing to come to court and testify for the first defendant because he failed to take advantage of the opportunity offered him to be heard.
“The first defendant cannot on March 8 seek to compel the appearance of witnesses to come to court on the 9th.”
The Court had earlier refused an application by Sani Katu seeking to withdraw his appearance as counsel to Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) as the Prosecutor, Farouk Abdullah, opposed the application on the ground that the senior counsel ought to have complied with Section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Section 349(8) of ACJA states that “where a legal practitioner intends to disengage from a matter, he shall notify the Court, not less than three days before the date fixed for hearing and such notice shall be served on the Court and all parties.”