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Court jails Maina eight years for N2.1b fraud

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
09 November 2021   |   4:10 am
The Federal High Court, Abuja has sentenced former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, to a total of 61 years imprisonment but to run concurrently for eight years for defrauding the Federal Government of the sum of N2.1 billion.

•EFCC, NCoS operatives clash over convict’s custody
•Anti-graft agency moves to prune witnesses in N3b case against Olojeme

The Federal High Court, Abuja has sentenced former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, to a total of 61 years imprisonment but to run concurrently for eight years for defrauding the Federal Government of the sum of N2.1 billion.

The sentence, which started counting from October 26, 2019 when the 12-count charge was brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), meant the convict began serving his eight years term from the very date.

By implication, the convict has only five years left of the service.

The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, yesterday, sentenced Maina to eight years imprisonment on count one, count two attracted five years, counts three and four went for eight years each. Counts five and six got three and five years jail terms.

The ex-pension panel chief was also convicted on counts seven, eight, nine and 10 for eight, three, five and eight years respectively, while counts 11 and 12 received three three-year sentence each.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of Maina’s three landed properties in Abuja and his bullet-proof Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and other automobiles. They are to be auctioned and the proceeds paid into the account of the Federal Government.

His company, ‘Common Input and Property Investment’, was ordered to refund N1.8 billion and $537,983 within 90 days to the Federal Government.

The judge also ordered the winding up of the firm.

Maina, who appeared remorseful after the verdict, apologised for his mistakes.

HOWEVER, there was a mild drama over the convict’s custody by operatives of the EFCC and the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).

Though the judge gave his custody to the service, the EFCC officials resisted when Maina was to be taken away by the prison officials, who were within the court premises.

In the end, it was gathered that NCoS eventually took custody of Maina.
IN a related development, the anti-graft, yesterday, informed the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of its intention to scale down the 78 witnesses earlier picked to testify against erstwhile Chairman of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme, in the N3 billion money laundering charges brought against her by the Federal Government.

EFCC counsel, Steve Odiase, told the court that his client had reviewed the case against the accused and now found that the 78 witnesses were wieldy.

He said only critical witnesses would be needed, promising that the commission would come up with an appreciable number of witnesses to testify against Olejeme.

During proceedings, EFCC called its first witness, Mallam Salihu Dantsoho Sadiq, who however in his evidence, denied knowing or ever transacting any direct business with the accused.

The testifier, who claimed to be a Bureau De Change operator, admitted transacting business with NSITF through one Henry Sambo for purchase of foreign exchange.

Led in evidence by Odiase, the witness said the deals, which involved millions of naira, were transacted between 2014 and 2015.

Under cross-examination by lawyer to the defendant, Paul Erokoro (SAN), the witness insisted that all his transactions were consistent with due process and extant Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guidelines.

Consequently, Justice Maryam Hassan Aliyu fixed November 29 for further trial of the defendant.

Olejeme was arraigned on October 21 on a nine-count charge bordering on alleged abuse of office, bribe, indiscriminate award of contracts, among others.