Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, faces possible prosecution for alleged perjury and forgery, arising from the documentation he filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja as surety for Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Task Team, who is facing trial for corruption.
Ndume first ran into trouble two weeks ago when Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja ordered his remand in Kuje Correctional Centre for failing to produce Maina for trial.
But the senator got a reprieve after spending five days in detention when the judge granted him bail on account of his “good behaviour and conduct,” even though the lawmaker challenged the court’s order to have him remanded in prison at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
With the turn of events which saw the arrest and extradition of Maina to Nigeria from Niger Republic earlier last week, it would appear that the senator is off the hook.
However, he has bigger problems to deal with as there are allegations that he deceived the court to grant Maina bail by lying and presenting to the court property that did not belong to him as bail guarantee and presenting forged documents to prove ownership of same.
Prosecutors in the Maina case are said to be considering action against the senator for perjury and forgery and misleading the court to grant bail to the embattled former pension task team boss, who has now been remanded in prison until his trial is concluded.
In early June, the senator stood surety for Maina, agreeing to a bail bond of N500 million. As guarantee, he presented a property, a house in Asokoro District in Abuja worth N500 million.
Earlier, on May 5, Ndume had sworn to an affidavit of means in which he stated that “the property used in the fulfilment of the bail term belongs to me personally.”
Senator Ali Ndume’s Affidavit of Means
In the affidavit, the senator also stated “if the defendant (Maina) jumps bail, the surety (Ndume) shall forfeit the bond to the tune of N500,000,000 (Five hundred million naira) to the federal government of Nigeria.”
However, sources close to the court case and the Economic and Financial Crimes commission, EFCC, which is prosecuting Maina, said that Ndume not only lied when he claimed ownership of the property, the house he presented to the court had been forfeited to the federal government and now serves as corporate offices of the Revenue and Fiscal Commission.
Documents obtained by The ICIR show that to sustain the claim of ownership of the property, a series of other lies were told and forged documents presented to the court.
First, the photograph of the property documented as Plot 158 Asokoro District, which is actually No 93, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro is that of another property known as Manor Terrace situated at 22 Idris Kutigi Street Asokoro. It is believed that the photograph of Manor Terrace, an impressive property even by the standards of the highbrow Asokoro district, presented to the court was to convince it that the property is worth the N500 million bond.
Also, a photograph of the real house would have shown that it houses a federal agency, which could have raised questions.
Documents presented to the court also claim that the property at No 93, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro was originally owned by one Lawal Ahmed who “donated” it to Senator Ali Ndume in 2018. But it was learnt that the property is owned by the federal government, having been forfeited to it by its previous owner. It could not be ascertained why the federal government took over the property but our reporter confirmed that the property has been handed over to the Fiscal Responsibility Commission for its use as office.
First in the list of documents presented to the court believed to have been forged is an irrevocable power of attorney purportedly issued by Lawal to Senator Ali Ndume dated February 14, 2018.
Investigators believe that the power of attorney was hurriedly prepared to serve the specific purpose of presenting it to the court for Maina’s bail. It is curious that the court did not verify the authenticity of the document before accepting it as there are obvious questionable discrepancies in it.
For example, though the power of attorney was purportedly made on February 14, 2018, it did not take on the authority of a legal document until March 20, 2020 when it was signed a Notary Public/Commissioner for Oaths.
Another forged document presented to the court is an application purportedly made by Lawal to the Abuja Geographic information System, AGIS, to register the power of attorney to Senator Ali Ndume, which would formalise the latter’s ownership of the property and document him accordingly on agency’s database. The document, dated March 20, 2020, the same day that the power of attorney was signed by a Notary Public/Commissioner for Oath, was presented to the court as proof that Senator Ali Ndume is listed by the Federal capital Territory Administration, FCTA, as the bonafide owner of the property offered to the court as collateral for the N500 million bail bond. No such document exists at AGIS and Senator Ali Ndume is not listed as owner of the said property, The ICIR confirmed from FCTA authorities.
Purported FCTA’s confirmation of Registration of Power of Attorney
Allegedly forged also are two letters of confirmation dated March 30, 2020 and May 20, 2020 purportedly signed by G.G. Bawa for the Director of Lands, Federal Capital Territory Administration, confirming to the Federal High Court, Abuja, the authenticity of a certificate of occupancy for the property presented to the court and the registration of the power of attorney with AGIS.
The first letter purports to confirm the authenticity of a certificate of occupancy for Plot 158, Asokoro District (93 Yakubu Gowon Street, Sokoro) issued to Lawal on August 29, 2015. That letter, addressed to the Deputy Registrar, Federal High Court, Abuja and dated March 30, 2020, also purports to confirm that the power of attorney from Lawal to Senator Ali Ndume over the property is registered with AGIS.
The second letter dated May 20, 2020 and also addressed to the Deputy Registrar, Federal High Court, Abuja, claims the said power of attorney is registered with the FCT authorities.
“We wish to confirm the execution of the Power of Attorney between Lawal Ahmed (Donor) and Mohammed Ali Ndume (Donee) in relation to Plot no 158, Cadastral Zone, Asokoro District, Abuja, covered by Certificate of Occupancy no (withheld) dated 29th August 2015. The Power of Attorney is duly registered in favour of Mohammed Ali Ndume,” the letter reads.
However, when The ICIR met Bawa in his office at the AGIS complex in Abuja on Friday afternoon, he denied any knowledge of the documents, confirming that they were forgeries.
Laughing when shown the letters, Bawa in turn showed our reporter a photocopy of the said letters in his possession and pointed out that the dates – March and May – fell within the period of lockdown when civil servants in the FCT, as in other parts of the country, did not go to work. He said no such documents were signed or issued by his office at this time.
The names of three lawyers appear on the power of attorney presented to the court purportedly handing ownership of 93 Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, to Senator Ndume. They are Stanley Dienu, Thankgod Enahoro and Tamunoibim Ibitoru.
When our reporter called Enahoro, he told the lawyer he would like to reach him on WhatsApp because he wanted to share some documents with him. On November 30, the lawyer read the first two messages sent by the reporter.
In the first message sent at 5.39 pm, the reporter introduced himself. The second one send at 5.40pm that reads “I would like to confirm if the Power of Attorney attached is authentic. It is indicated that your chambers handled it.”
He read both and subsequently switched off his WhatsApp because he has not even read the third message which contained the said power of attorney sent a few minutes later as at December 4 when this report was filed.
Since Monday, Enahoro has also refused to take the reporter’s calls, cutting him off every time he tried to reach him.
A source close to the court case and the investigations leading to it said that when Senator Ali Ndume was confronted with the forgeries and their implications for him, particularly with his position as a senator, he confessed that did not own the house presented to the court as guarantee for the bail bond.
The senator, it was gathered, said that when he told “Maina’s people” that he did not have a house worth the N500 million requested by the court, they told him not to worry as they would get the house to be used as surety.
The senator reportedly said they brought papers for him and he just signed them, trusting that they were genuine.
When a reporter spoke to Senator Ali Ndume on Sunday night, he explained that he did not own a property worth N500 million and that the one he submitted to the court was donated to him.
“I do not own a property worth N500 million. I do not have that kind of money. I did not tell the court that I own the property but that it was donated to me. And before the court accepted the papers for the house, they should have verified it,” he asserted
The lawmaker insisted that he verified the papers of the property to determine its genuineness, asserting that they were confirmed to be authentic by AGIS.
“I sent a lawyer to verify if it was genuine when they donated the house to me and it was confirmed by AGIS. I accepted when they said they would donate the house. My only condition is that it would not be Maina’s own because that would have been wrong as he was accused of money laundering. So what is all this about?”
“I believe that some people want to smear my name because the bottom line is that the issue of the property has been overtaken by events. Bottomline is that Maina jumped bail but he has been arrested again and is now back in Kuje. So, what is the issue?, the senator queried.
When Ndume was told that AGIS distanced itself from the papers purportedly sent by it to the court verifying his ownership of the property, he said that he could not be blamed for that because the court should have verified if the documents were genuine.
He insisted that he did not know Maina until recently and had no reason to protect him through dubious means.
“I never knew Maina before and it took them eight months for them to convince me to stand as his surety. I have met him only twice in my life. First, when I went to prison to confirm that he was really sick and the doctor told me he was, indeed, terribly ill. The second time was last Thursday after they rearrested him. The thing is that judge insisted on a serving senator and he is from my constituency.”.
A source at the lands department of the FCTA who cannot be named said that presentation of forged land documents to courts for bail purposes is a racket that is common and that provided daily bread for many Nigerians. According to the source, the way it works is that when a court grants an accused person bail that requires a property as guarantee, there are always “touts, lawyers and even court officials who are there whose business it is to ensure that land\property documents are perfected and presented to the court.
The source said that the “racket involves FCTA, AGIS, court officials and even some security men.