The Travails of Senator Ali Ndume

Senator Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno South Senatorial District, was remanded in the National Correctional Service, Kuje FCT on the order of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court. This was due to the fact that Senator Ali Ndume had stood as surety to Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), who failed to appear at the alleged N2 Billion Pension Funds Fraud. The court gave a 21-day notice to Maina to unfailingly appear in court, but it was disobeyed. Senator Ndume had helped Maina secure bail by providing the requirements of bail. The bail requirements included the sum of N500 million bail bonds and two sureties with the same sum. One of the sureties must be a serving senator who must not be facing any criminal charge. The Senator must also own landed properties in highbrow Asokoro and Maitama.

Maina was arraigned alongside his son on a 12-count charge of money laundering, concealment of proceeds of an unlawful act. Maina was accused of using his sister-in-law, Mairo Mohammed Bashir, a UBA staff, to open a corporate account without due diligence, in the name of Common Input Properties and Investments LTD. The former chairman of PRTT was accused of siphoning pension monies to the sum of N171.9m in cash and has been reported to have made $316, 588.27, and $314.6m from unlawful transactions between 2014 to 2018. He had also been linked to the purchase of the property of Life Camp in Jabi, Abuja. In the same vein, Faisal Maina, his son, opened a secret account in the name of Alhaji Faisal Abdullahi Farma II. Faisal has since regained his freedom. However, the Federal High Court had ordered the rearrest of the young man because he has also refused to attend court proceedings concerning his own case.

Senator Ndume intervened owing to a lot of pressure from Maina’s mother, uncle, and wife. He told the court that he was empathetic to Maina’s deteriorating health condition in prison:
‘I went to prison to confirm for myself whether he was sick and the prison officers told me that he was sick and appealed to me to be his surety so that he could have access to medical attention.’
‘Orji Kalu was in the prison then. He, alongside Joshua Dariye and former governor of Taraba State, Rev.Jolly Nyame, all appealed to me in the prison to assist him.’
‘It took me eight months my lord to take that decision. I have to be given an indemnity by his uncle; signed by me, him and a lawyer that Maina would always be in court,’ the senator said.

Ndume appealed to the court to adopt a procedure where ‘innocent citizens like me holding a public office for over one million people should not be subjected to this.’ Ndume has been ordered by the courts to produce Maina in court or risk remaining in prison until he provides the N500 Million Naira bail bound to the FG, or risk losing his Asokoro Property.

This has come as a shock to many who consider Ndume as an outspoken Senator who often rattles, disrupts and questions government agenda even though he belonged to the same party. Ndume had addressed issues concerning the Boko Haram insurgency with urgency because of the threat it poses to the well-being of the people in his constituency. Localities like Biu, Damboa, Chibok, Askira/UBA, Gwoza, Bayo, Hawul, Shani, Kwaya Kuzar, have now been turned into battlefields and contested territories and residents have fled into Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps in the State.

Ndume has served at both the Green, and the Red Chambers of the Senate. He has represented Chibok, Damboa and Gwoza from 2003 to 2011, as a member of the ANPP. He was the minority leader during his re-election to the House of Representatives in 2011. He won a seat at the Senate in 2015 with an APC ticket and emerged majority leader against the wishes of the party. After serving as majority leader for eight months, he was unceremoniously removed as majority leader. Ndume returned to the Senate in 2019. He emerged once again as majority leader only for 19 months. During his majority leadership stint, he was deprived of presiding as Chairman on any committee until he was ousted. He was however the deputy chairman, Committee of Rules and Business, member, Committee on Aviation, member; Committee on Foreign Affairs, and member, Committee on Public Procurement.

Senator Ndume has sponsored more than 15 bills amongst which are the North East Development Commission Bill, and the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill which raised national concerns and got rejected by President Buhari. Ndume was suspended at the 8th Senate for some of his controversial statements concerning the Boko Haram insurgency and this deprived his constituents of representations for eight months. He was also heavily criticised and eventually sacked by the APC caucus for allegedly blocking the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC chairman that was later arrested for bribery and other financial crimes in 2019. When Senator Ali Ndume was in the PDP, he was not in the good books of Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Dino Melaye, and these also led to a six-month suspension, as well as ruffled arguments on the floor of the Senate.

Senator Ali Ndume ran for the President of Senate in the 9th Assembly but he was not favoured to assume such high office. He was defeated by Senate President Ahmed Lawn. He is the current Chairman, Senate Committee on Army. Senator Ali Ndume’s vocal pronouncements have not always gone down well with the military brass. He recently criticised the rehabilitation and the reintroduction programme of the NA for captured Boko Haram insurgents. He noted that it was a problematic reward system for young men who have killed their neighbours, and destroyed whole communities. Senator Ndume lamented that while the army is doing little or nothing to rehabilitate affected inhabitants of the insurgent torn North-East, it is abruptly introducing these former insurgents into society without resolving the pent-up acrimony and anger haboured by inhabitants against them. The Nigeria State Security Service has also once accused Ali Ndume of having a link with Mallam Ali Konduga, a Boko Haram spokesperson. Critics of Ali Ndume have accused him of incompetence and double loyalties to the FG and the emerging Boko Haram Caliphate. Critics have also accused him of churning out narratives of high losses of soldiers who he claims are hurriedly buried without respect and ceremony. This may further demoralise the men in the trenches who are doing all they can to secure the sovereignty of the country and safeguard the lives of all Nigerians.

Meanwhile, Marcel Oru, Senator Ndume’s lawyer told the media that the verdict of the judge went contrary to the basic rules of fair hearing. Oru said that they were denied access to documents that would furnish them (the defence counsel). Barrister Marcel has noted that he would appeal the remand of his client at the Court of Appeal in order to regain his freedom.

Senators do not have immunity according to the laws of the land, only the President, Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives are covered by the immunity clause pending the expiration of their office. However, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, has accused the legal system of tribal bias based on the fact that while it remanded Senator Ndume for the failure of Maina to appear in court, it has failed to order the arrest of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a serving senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, for failing to produce Nnamdi Kanu, a ‘treasonable felon’ and leader of the Indigenous Peoples’ of Biafra:

‘Whether Maina committed an offence or not, we believe it amounts to setting a bad example if Senator Abaribe, who stood surety for terrorist Nnamdi Kanu, is still walking the streets as a free man.’

Contrary to the views of Shettima, the Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the arrest of Senator Enyinnayya Abaribe, who had served as surety for Nnamdi Kanu, but Nnamdi Kanu absconded from the country. Senator Abaribe however put up a defence at the Court of Appeal that he diligently performed all the conditions of the bail bond until the Nigerian Army invaded the home of the IPOB Chieftain and activated the escape of Kanu from the country.

It would be recalled that Joe Kyari Gadzama, the lead legal counsel for Abdulrasheed Maina, had duly informed the court of Maina’s medical condition with medical reports to prove. Maina was reported to have had diabetes and hypertension which was noted to have affected his movement. Maina had also told the media in October that he would plead with the courts for time to attend to his failing health. He said that he was bedridden and needed time to recuperate and was not on the run.

On November 18, the judge revoked Maina’s bail due to incessant absence and ordered Ndume to appear before the court to put before the court the justification for the non-forfeiture of the sum of N500 million deposited as bail bound to the Federal Government. Senator Ndume wrote to the Deputy Registrar of the court requesting that documents as concerns the proceedings of Maina’s case be examined by his legal team. Perhaps, the courts saw Ndume’s absence at the courts as insubordination and disobedience. It was therefore not sparing in its judgement. The judgement made was according to Section 179 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which empowers the Judge to remand sureties whenever the accused cannot be located in court or cannot be brought to court by the surety.

The men of Senator Ali Ndume are not folding their arms. They hope to explore aspects of the law that largely protects and withdraws the involvement of a serving Senator in such cases. They have also expressed disappointment that their boss will spend some time in jail due to his goodwill. Shehu Usman Aliyu, the senior legislative Aide to Senator Ndume, said that Maina betrayed the trust of his benefactor by jumping bail:

‘Senator Ndume did not know Maina from Adam until after some elders from Southern Borno met him in Abuja and begged him to act as his (Maina’s) surety for a trial in court.’

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‘The Senator knew that he has to produce Maina in court during the trial period. Unfortunately, Maina appeared only once (first sitting) in eleven court sittings after being released on bail. This is not the best way to pay back.

Aliyu pleaded with Maina’s family, associates and colleaugues to persuade him to appear in court so that Senator Ndume would be freed.

Categories: Politics

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