Eric Ikhilae and Nicholas Kalu, The Nation
A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja has suspended further proceedings in the trial of former Chairman of defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, until December 21, 2020.
Justice Okon Abang announced the suspension on Thursday after Maina slumped from the chair on which he sat during proceedings.
At the mention of the case, Maina, who had sat close to some of his relatives, moved to a chair close to the dock in front of the courtroom.
Lead prosecuting lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, told the court that the case was scheduled for the defence lawyer, Anayo Adibe, to argue his no-case submission.
Adibe, who took over Maina’s case after his former lawyer discontinued, told the court that he was not ready to make his no-case submission because he was yet to access the record of proceedings he applied for.
He prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable him obtain the record to enable him prepare for his submission.
The lawyer was still on his feet addressing the court when Maina slumped from where he sat and fell to the ground.
The development disrupted court’s proceedings slightly as some of his lawyers and prison officials in court rushed to where the accused had fallen, lifted him from the floor and took him outside the courtroom, where they were later joined by the court’s medical officials.
The judge stood down proceedings and rose for about 30 minutes.
At the resumption of proceedings around 11 a.m, Justice Abang said following Maina’s fall, lawyers to both parties should address the court on the effect of the development to further haring of the case.
Abdullah asked the court to discountenance Maina’s presence and continue with the proceedings.
The prosecution lawyer insisted that Adibe must make his no-case submission, failing which the court should foreclose him.
Responding, Adibe urged the court to allow his client the benefit of the doubt to enable medical experts ascertain his health status and whether or not Maina was fit to continue to stand trial.
On the insinuations that Maina could have stage-managed his fall, Adibe said it was wrong to so conclude until medical assessment was carried out on his client.
Ruling, Justice Abang said it was unethical for Maina’s lawyer to ask for adjournment, when the court had turned down such request on two occasions.
“The primary duty of Adibe is to assist the court to do justice and not to compound issues for the court. His duty to his client is secondary,” Justice Abang said.
He added that Adibe’s letter of December 7, 2020 to the Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) of the court, requesting for the CTC of the record of court proceedings with the name of the trial judge on it instead of the court number, was intended to humiliate the judge.
The judge said by falling, Maina’s intention was to delay proceedings in the matter, adding that Adibe ought to have made enquiry as to the readiness of the records of proceedings.