By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE battle line appears to have been drawn between the Senate and President Goodluck Jonathan as the Senate yesterday accused the president of protecting the Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina for alleged mismanagement of over N195 billion pension funds.
The Senate has therefore asked the president to sack Maina saying it has been pushed to the wall over the matter
Asking President Jonathan to arrest, investigate and prosecute the embattled Maina, the Senate also warned President Jonathan that if he fails to carry out its resolutions on Maina, the episode will be a test case between the Executive and the Legislature, even as it vowed that it will not fail to react appropriately.
Anger and emotion high
Anger and emotions were high yesterday on the floor of the Senate when the lawmakers condemned in very strong terms the continued refusal of Maina to appear before the Senator Aloysius Etok, led Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration.
Following discussions on a motion titled, ‘’Dismissal of Mr Abdulrasheed Maina for Refusal to Appear Before the Senate by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma- Egba, PDP, Cross River Central and 107 senators, the Senate yesterday called on President Jonathan to immediately sack Maina from the Public Service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and be disengaged from all acts relating to public duty”, just as the president was asked to either dismiss him or choose to work with the Senate.
We have teeth to bite — Mark
Meanwhile, Senate President David Mark warned yesterday that the Senate has teeth to bite and was prepared to bite when the occasion arises. He said, ‘’We have been pushed to the wall. Nobody in this country will be left to go scot-free if he is associated with Maina. It doesn’t matter who is behind Maina, it is not for me to know whether somebody is behind Maina or not, but no matter who is behind Maina, we are not going to accept it.
‘’The Senate has given him ample time, Maina is just an individual who perhaps said more than he can manage and he has therefore crucified himself. That is the bottom line and the executive has to choose between Maina and the Senate. If they choose to go along with Maina, fine, we will react accordingly. There is no running away from it. It is a test case, if Maina remains, then the Senate will react appropriately and I don’t think we are short of ideas nor are we short of what we want to do. We know the step to take.
‘’Let me emphasise, nobody in this country is bigger than our democracy. I have been extremely patient with Maina, very patient, very understanding so that when we react, Nigerians will appreciate the steps that we have taken. So I don’t think that what we have done is out of place because we gave him enough time and he crucified himself. He is wanted by the police, now, whether the police is serious or not in looking for Maina is the next step we are going to take because Maina cannot be briefing the press somewhere and the police will say they cannot find him.
The Senate also yesterday summoned the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar to appear before it to explain what happened following his failure to produce Maina when Senate President issue a warrant for Maina’s arrest.
The resolutions of the Senate read, ‘’that Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina be dismissed from the Public Service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria immediately and be disengaged from all acts relating to public duty.
‘’That Maina should be immediately arrested, investigated and prosecuted and that the Inspector- General of Police appears before the Senate to give reasons why he did not act on the Warrant issued by the President of the Senate and failure to do so.”
Ndoma Egba speaks
Earlier in his presentation of the motion, Senator Ndoma-Egba said: ‘’The Senate Notes that on the 2nd of November, 2001, it had mandated the Senate Committees on Establishment and public Service and States and Local Governments to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the management and administration of pension funds and payment of pensioners in Nigeria pursuant to Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
‘’Further note that at its sitting of Thursday of Thursday, 21st June, 2012, it considered the report of the joint Committees and also approved the recommendations therein;
‘’Also notes that in consideration of the observations of the Joint Committee with respect to the refusal of Mr. Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, the acting Director of Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pensions Office, CIPPO to appear before the Committee to account for the Administration and Management of Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pensions Office and the pension funds thereto, the Senate had directed that the Joint Committee should continue, and conclude investigation of the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pensions Office as well as invoke all legal and constitutional powers of the Senate in pursuance thereto;
‘’Aware that the Joint Committee had held Committee and Public Investigative Hearings for seven days and, according to Section 5 of the Legislative House(Power and Privileges) Act, invited Mr Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina to appear before the Joint Committee to give account of his tenure as well as the management and administration of pension funds at the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pensions Office which he has on all occasions neglected and refused to honour;
‘’Further Aware that after several sittings of the Joint Committees without the attendance of Mr. Maina despite proper invitation, the Joint Committee was constrained to request that the President of the Senate invoke the powers of the Senate to compel the attendance of Mr.Maina at the Public Investigative Hearing of the Senate Joint Committees.”
‘’Also Aware that pursuant to Section 6 of the Legislative House(Powers and Privileges) Act which reads; If a person to whom a summon under section 5 of this Act is directed does not attend before the Committee at the time and place mentioned therein, the President or Speaker, as the case may be, of the Legislative House may, upon being satisfied that the summons was duly served or that the person to whom the summons is directed wilfully avoids service, issue a warrant to apprehend him and bring him, at a time and place to be stated in the warrant, before the committee, The President of the Senate issued a Warrant to compel the attendance of Mr. Maina before the Joint Committee and which same was, according to Section 6(2) of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, directed for execution by the Inspector- General of Police on Wednesday, 13th December, 2012;
‘’Concerned that the Inspector-General of Police has refused to honour and execute the warrant to compel the attendance of Maina as issued by the hand of the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Explaining the efforts the Senate made to get Maina to appear before the Committee to clear himself and he failed, Senate President David Mark said, ‘’Let me give you the genesis of why I took so long to allow that matter to be brought to the floor.
First, for those of you who have been following Maina, he bought over the entire press and gave the impression that the joint committee asked him for bribe, and I say that he should be given a fair chance to come and explain himself and expose anybody here who asked him for anything.
‘’If we hurried over it, it could appear as if it is a cover up and I didn’t want to do that. I called the two committee chairmen and I asked them if they have been reading what Maina has been publishing on the pages of paper and I also directed that they should invite Maina, go for a public hearing and get the media houses to be there and let Maina say in the front of the media houses and before this nation who asked him for bribe and I think that’s fair. That was the basis for asking Maina to appear before the committee.
‘’Now, Maina wrote a petition to me along the same line, even though he didn’t sign it, he is a level 14 or level 13 civil servant, I didn’t bother so much about it because it is civil service procedure because that was not the subject matter and the subject matter was serious enough, at least to clear the name of the Senate.
I told my Chief of Staff to call Maina and tell him that he must appear before the committee. I also forwarded the petition before the committee for their reaction and their reaction was that he mismanaged certain amount of money and he is refusing to appear before them but Maina wrote another letter to the committee, saying that he had written a petition to me and that he was awaiting an outcome and again, he didn’t sign it.
‘’It was signed by somebody under him, that was to tell you the level to which he put himself. Whether somebody is behind him or not is a different subject matter entirely. But I got my chief of Staff and my chief of staff called him and said that he must appear before the committee, but because he also expressed fear that because he wanted to expose the committee, the committee too would be bias, they will harass him and prevent him to talk, I said fine, the deputy senate leader, who is Abdul Ningi and the chief whip should join the committee when he appears before the committee.
‘’I gave him ample time to clear himself and to carry his accusation to a logical conclusion but each time he was to appear before the committee, he would address a press conference and in every occasion, I pointed it out to the two chairmen and of course the committee denied that they ever asked Maina for anything.
‘’The point I am trying to make here is that giving him a fair chance, giving him an ample time to defend himself is not a wrong thing and it is not a sign of weakness in any way, it is not. I believe that it is fair and that we should follow the legal system not justice, but let justice be also seen to be done.
That is justice in the true sense of it. When the committee finally came to me and said that Maina refused to come, I then signed a warrant and sent it to the IGP and I think it was the second day that Maina appeared here, hired people and was addressing them in the same vain, he was addressing them in the same vain.
‘’That the Senate not being straight-forward with him, in one of the headlines, it was that the Senate was colluding with fraudsters to embezzle pension fund. And I pointed all these out to the two chairmen in every occasion and said every time they called Maina, he must be put on camera, that it must be in public that this Senate is not a place where people will be asking anybody for bribe.
‘’When I signed the warrant, Maina of course didn’t show up and then I called the chairman of police affairs and said he should go and warn the inspector General of Police that he would be on the firing line if he does nothing about Maina. I think then, they declared Maina wanted but even after declaring him wanted, Maina was still talking. Yes, he was still talking and said he was in his house and I called the IGP this time around and said Maina said he is in his house and he narrated what happened.
‘’He said he sent his men from the Force CID to go to his house and that when they got to his house, Maina went out through the back door and that they had laid a siege in Maina’s house.