Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, on Wednesday, told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that his remark on him in the last proceeding was unfair to him.
Maina, who spoke through his counsel, Joe Gadzama, SAN, at the commencement of trial on the case against him filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), sought for the case to be reassigned to another judge.
Gadzama had stood in for Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN.
On Oct. 25, Justice Abang, while he was about to deliver ruling on the bail application filed by Counsel to Maina, Raji, told the court registrar to tell Maina to stop looking at him to enable him concentrate on delivering the ruling.
“Please I don’t want the 1st defendant to look at me when I am delivering my ruling so that I can concentrate,” he said.
The court registrar in an attempt to amplify the directive of the judge, further compounded the matter as he asked Maina to look at the prosecution, who brought him to court.
Abang, who was visibly unhappy with the court registrar’s comment, cautioned him against such act.
The judge later continued with his ruling, ordering the EFCC to remand the defendant in the Nigerian Correctional Service centre and adjourned for today, Oct. 30.
However, at the resumed trial on Wednesday, Maina signalled his intention to talk while in the dock but Justice Abang overruled him since he was represented at the court by Gadzama.
“I cannot allow the defendant to speak since he is represented in court,” Abang said.
With the permission of the judge, Gadzama walked to meet Maina, who was in the dock, listened to him as he muttered some words to him.
When Gadzama returned to his seat, he told the judge what Maina had expressed to him.
“My Lord, the 1st defendant told me I should tell the court, on his behalf, that on Oct. 25 of this month, he was before the court and while the court was on, the court 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,” he said.
Gadzama said as a result of the judge’s remark, Maina told him that his high blood pressure rose astronomically, and he felt so bad with the comment as if he had been convicted already.
Maina counsel, therefore, told Justice Abang that his client told him he would seek the indulgence of the court if the case could be reassigned to another judge.
Responding, Justice Abang, who said he was uncomfortable the way the defendant starred at him consistently while about to deliver his ruling that day, said: “I merely advised him not to stare at me.
“I can’t allow him to stare at me consistently. I am in control of my proceedings and I should also protect myself.
“If somebody is starring at me consistently, I should protect myself because I did not commit any offence and I did not put him there neither did I assign the case for myself,” he said
The judge, who called the registrar to bear him witness, said Maina’s case was not the first time he would be cautioning a defendant on their conduct while in court.
“Registrar, you have been with me for the past eight months now, is he the only person I have said this to?
“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.
“I am from a home; I have my wife and children. I have to protect myself.
“Please learned SAN, if you are asking for an adjournment say so. This is a court of record.
“Let us not allow sentiment to take over the proceeding of the court,” Abang said.
However, when Gadzama asked for the adjournment of the matter because he was only briefed the previous day to take over the case, Justice Abang overruled him, saying the court would commence the trial.
He directed the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, to call out the first witness.
Maina is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency on a 12-count charge bordering “money laundering, operating fictitious bank accounts and fraud.”
However, he pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against him by the EFCC.