The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday overruled Abdulrasheed Maina’s request to have his trial transferred to another judge of the court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on October 25 arraigned the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team and Common Input Property and Investment Limited before Justice Okon Abang on 12 counts bordering on money laundering and fraud.
Speaking through his lawyer, Joe Gadzama (SAN), at the commencement of trial on Wednesday, Maina said he wanted his case withdrawn from Justice Abang over a remark made by the judge on the day of his arraignment.
Maina was referring to Justice Abang’s instructions to a registrar of the court to caution the defendant from staring at him while about preparing to write a ruling on his bail application.
In his ruling which he later delivered, the judge ordered that Maina be remanded in custody and adjourned till Wednesday for commencement of trial.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Maina indicated his intention to speak from the dock, but the judge said he should allow his lawyer to speak for him.
After a short hushed conversation between Maina and Gadzama, the lawyer said to the judge, “The 1st defendant told me that I should tell the court that on October 25, this month he was before the court and while the proceedings were going on, the judge asked him not to look at him.
“And he wondered why he should not look at him since he was not the only one that appeared before the court that day.”
Gadzama said his client blood pressure had risen because he felt he had been convicted going by the judge’s remark.
The lawyer said his client thereby requested that his case be re-assigned to another judge in whom he could have confidence.
The judge said his remark referred to by the defendant was nothing more than a piece of advice.
He added, “There was a day a witness was about entering the court dock and he started adjusting his trousers. He looked at me and adjusted his trousers.
“I told him ‘don’t adjust your trousers; don’t touch your trousers again because I don’t know what is inside the trousers’. So I merely advised the defendant not to look at the court.”
Gadzama then pleaded with Justice Abang to adjourn the case to enable him to have a better grasp of the case because he was only briefed by the defendant on Tuesday night.
But the judge overruled the request for adjournment and ordered the prosecution led by Mohammed Abubakar to call the first witness.
The prosecution went ahead to call Mairo Mohammed, a banker, as their first witness.
Mohammed said he opened naira and dollar accounts for Maina.
The trial was adjourned till November 5.