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Former Chairman of defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina [Photo Credit: Buzz Nigeria]

LAWMAKERS in the upper legislative chamber resolved yesterday to probe the controversial return of Abdulrasheed Maina to the civil service.

The Public Service, Anti-Corruption, Interior and Judiciary committee is to investigate the recall of the former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, who is on the wanted list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N2 billion pension fraud, among others.

The committee is to determine how Maina was reinstated and promoted to director.

The upper chamber said the development became even curious, especially when Maina is wanted for alleged fraud.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance raised by Senator Isa Hamma Misau (Bauchi South).

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Misau said the circumstances of Misau’s return and reinstatement service had become a huge embarrassment to the country.

Many of the senators who contributed to the debate asked the Senate to resolve to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to sack those linked to the development.

The lawmakers singled out Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and Interior Minister Abdulrahman Danbazzau as two public officials that should be hammered by President Buhari for their alleged roles in the Maina matter.

Misau said: “Right from day before, you will see the story of somebody who has been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We read how the man who was declared wanted and was said to be abroad came back to Nigeria miraculously.

“Going by the newspaper publications, somebody wanted by the EFCC left the country for so many years. He was dismissed from the service. He was out for a long time, but smuggled into the service. He left the country as an assistant director. Today, he is a director.

“We even heard that he goes about with police escort. I wonder how a government that claims to be fighting corruption will be involved in a matter like this. This is a big embarrassment for this country. The people around the President are not helping matters. It appears that the President is the only one talking about corruption. Other people around him are protecting corrupt people.

“The AGF was mentioned and other people were mentioned. We investigated this case in the 7th Assembly. I am calling on the Senate to investigate this case again.”

Chief Whip Olusola Adeyeye said: “I remember what happened then. It got to a point when the former President of the Senate, David Mark, told the former President Goodluck Jonathan to choose between Abdulrasheed Maina and loyalty to the country. It got so bad that Maina had over 30 police officers attached to him.

“It got so bad that he was always on the front row whenever the former President travelled. At some point, we thought that he was being protected. I remember one of us was blackmailed and called names. He was accused of taking billions as bribes. Today, that lawmaker was cleared and he is here.

“Some principalities in power then ferried Maina to neighbouring countries. There is a procedure when it comes to promotion in the civil service. This is an insult on the part of civil servants who have worked so hard.

“As a member of APC, it is a sad moment. We cannot say that we want to fight corruption and have this approach. Jesus Christ said it is difficult for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle.

“This saddens me and I am sure it saddens all of us. I am glad that following the outrage from the public, the President acted swiftly. We read in the papers that the rules of the civil service were bypassed.

“It appears there are people in this government who want the President to fail. Every patriot and member of APC in this house must stand out and ensure that the President does not fail.

“Papers have reported that two Ministers were involved. Those Ministers must be brought to justice. The President must ensure that those Ministers are sacked. Corruption is not only about stealing money. Incompetence too is another form of corruption.

“I hope that this Senate will not forget its past resolutions on Maina. On it, we still stand. He must be made to stand and face the law. He is not above the law. Steven Oronsaye was accused. He did not leave the country. He stayed back and cleared his name. Maina must do same.

Senator Kabiru Marafa said: “I want to appreciate the person who brought this motion by exposing some dubious people in government. No family can boast of having 100 per cent good people. APC is not an exception. We cannot attribute everything to the President. He should be commended for rising to the occasion.

“Reinstating Maina is a crime against Nigerians. We should approve a full blown investigation into what happened. We must not allow this thing to go unnoticed.

Senator Atai Idoko said: “We are looking at the symptoms; we are not looking at the cause. Maina is too small to go back to office. Somebody brought him back to the office. Maina is too small. He is not the issue. We should look at those who returned Maina.

“As we were told, the person who approved this thing is the AGF. The simplest thing the President could do was to terminate the appointment of Maina. That is not the issue. The AGF brought him back. The AGF has a history of doing things like this. The President should tell us what he will do to the AGF.

Senator Albert Bassey Akpan would like the Senate to “investigate and bring to book any person who wants to bring this country to disrepute”. “We will stand with the Senate to ensure that the right thing is done,” he said.

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Senator Tayo Alasoadura cautioned his colleagues not to call names of people who have not been indicted. “We should not duplicate. If the executive has set up a committee, we should not do the same thing. We must not set up committees every time”, he said.

Senator Dino Melaye, “the whole unfolding affair is pathetic”. He said: “Should we continue in sin and ask grace to abound? The AGF time after time has abused his office. Maina did not get himself back. We should talk about the integrity of the AGF and his office. If the number one law officer is breaking the law, where is the hope?

“The AGF started with the forgery case against Saraki and Ekweremadu. Something happened we have not noticed. Two public officers had issues and the AGF chose to support the Inspector-General of Police against Senator Isah Hamman Misau. Today, it is Senator Isah versus the Federal Government.

“Tomorrow, if I commit any offence against the friend to the AGF, I will be arraigned. We should not encourage the setting up of investigative committees. The President is surrounded by worms who are bent on destroying the country.

“There are so many committees that have been set up by the President and the resolutions of those reports may not be implemented until after rapture. Enough is enough. We cannot have this forever. This is wrong. The Senate needs to do something.

“We must recommend to the President that the AGF has erred in discharging the affairs of his office. If we do not check it, the AGF will plunge us into trouble.

Senate President Bukola Saraki asked the joint committee to do a thorough job.

THE GENESIS

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has secretly reinstated fugitive former chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service.

An online newspaper, Premium Times reports that Mr. Maina, who is wanted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, was secretly recalled and promoted to the position of director in charge of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior.
Before his appointment to chair the pension task force, Mr. Maina was an assistant director in the ministry.

The news of the reinstatement first filtered through a congratulatory message for Mr. Maina by a group called League of Civil Society Organisations which commended the federal government for the reinstatement.

Mr. Maina was in 2013 dismissed by the Federal Civil Service Commission following a recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service.

A retired director in the Office of the Head of Service familiar with the matter said recalling Mr. Maina was an affront on the rule of law.

“He should not have been reinstated. Doesn’t Mr. Maina have a case in court? The rules provide for action to be taken only after the courts have dispensed of the case fully,” he said.

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THE PENSION FRAUD

Trouble started in 2012 when Mr. Maina was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to more than N100 billion. Mr. Maina, was drafted by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010 to sanitize a corrupt pension system.

Based on the allegation of corruption, Mr. Maina was invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration.

The Senate after completion of its investigation issued a Warrant of Arrest against Mr. Maina.

Ignoring the panel, Mr. Maina went ahead to sue the Senate and the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and thereafter went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police.

Consequent upon this, Mr. Maina was dismissed by the Head of Service for allegedly absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest and charged to court.

He was on July 21, 2015 charged by the EFCC alongside Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretence.

While Mr. Oronsaye and the two other accused were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, Mr. Maina was at large.

Mr. Maina is said to have spent these past years in the United Arab Emirates, from where he kept lobbying to win pleasure of the Buhari administration.

MAINA RESURFACES

Since absconding, nothing was heard of Mr. Maina until shortly after the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 when members of his defunct Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms offered to work with the then incoming administration.

The team, which addressed a press conference in Abuja, said its work would be easier under Mr. Buhari, known for his anti-corruption stand.

A member of the team, Ngozika Ihuoma, said one of the achievements of President Jonathan was the creation of the pension task reform body in June 2010 under the leadership of Mr. Maina.

Two years after, it appears the prayer of the team has been answered by the current administration.

Mr. Maina’s reinstatement was shrouded in secrecy and was handled “at the highest level” according to an informed source.

The reinstatement was not announced by the presidency or any federal government agency.

Earlier this year, Mr. Maina’s campaign posters surfaced on the social media, touting him as gubernatorial aspirant for Borno state, without indicating political party platform.

MALAMI, DAMBAZAU FINGERED

A source knowledgeable about the deal that brought the controversial civil servant back, said Mr. Maina pulled the strings through the duo of the Justice and Interior ministers, who are described as Mr. Maina’s acquaintances.

Mr. Maina is said to have used many emissaries to the two ministers, while he was ensconced in his hiding place in Dubai.

Interior minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau, did not answer repeated calls to his phone seeking to clarify the information.

The spokesperson of Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice, Salihu Othman, however said he was unaware of his boss’s role in the deal.

EFCC SHOCKED, SAYS HE’S A FUGITIVE

However, a top official of the EFCC said Mr. Maina is still wanted by the commission in relation to the pension scam for which he was arraigned in absentia.

“We are still looking for him. He is a wanted man. He ought to be arraigned with Oronsaye and the rest but he disappeared,” said the official, who pleaded anonymity.

He said the commission will immediately revisit the case as it continues search for the embattled civil servant.

President Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said he was unaware of Mr. Maina’s reinstatement.

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