By Soni Daniel & BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE
*As Maina weighs option, awaits court verdict before resurfacing…
ABUJA—The Presidency Thursday declared the embattled Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, a fugitive who is on the run and must be tracked down by the police.
The Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, refuted allegations that the Presidency was shielding Maina and assured that everything was being done to ensure he was arrested and made to answer allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Senate Committee that probed pension fund administration.
According to Dr Okupe, “the Presidency is not hobnobbing with Maina. The Presidency is not shielding Maina. I also heard somebody mention that Maina is on the list of the President’s trip to Switzerland. That is not correct. The President is not even going to Switzerland.
“Whether he has regard for the Head of Service of the Federation does not matter. The police have a job to do and I believe that they have the capability to do that, and they will do it. The fact now is that Maina is a fugitive and he is on the run.
“The President cannot issue a warrant of arrest of a citizen, he cannot ask for a citizen to be disciplined, and at the same time use its own machinery to hide the person. This is not the kind of Presidency we have.
“We must search for him (Maina) and there is nowhere to hide in the world anymore. If it is true that Maina is outside the country, the Interpol can trace him and they will get him.
“When the President received the official complaint from the Senate, written by the Senate President, Senator David Mark, Mr President immediately called the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, and said ‘look, this man has done this, declare him wanted.
So that carries its own implication. The President does not know what Maina would do, the President does not monitor or sit on the affairs of the Senate. At the point that the matter was officially brought to the President, he took an immediate action.”
Maina weighs option
Meanwhile, Maina is reportedly weighing available options to bail himself out of the trouble he has been thrown into by the National Assembly with the Presidency.
Rattled by the NASS and seemingly abandoned by the Presidency, Maina has gone underground, just as the whereabouts of the retinue of snipers around him remains unknown.
Vanguard learnt from reliable security sources that contrary to the dummy sold to Nigerians by the wanted PRTT boss that he had gone abroad; Maina was actually being holed up in Nigeria.
The source explained that although Maina has been talking with some of his aides and associates with certain telephone numbers that appear to be foreign, the man was still in Nigeria.
The source added that the wanted man dumped the idea of fleeing the country when it dawned on him that he could be extradited from any part of the world to face his trial in Nigeria if he was found culpable in the ongoing pension row with the NASS.
There were indications that following strong advice by his lawyers and associates, Maina might come out of hiding to honour the Senate invitation, which he has been shunning in the past.
Those close to Maina are said to have advised him to come out of hiding and explain his operations at the PRRT to the Senate while still pursuing the N1.5 billion case he instituted early in the month against the NASS, the Inspector General of Police and others in a bid to prove his innocence.
The case is coming up next Tuesday in Abuja and Maina is praying the verdict would turn up in his favour so that he could use that as a leeway to confront the NASS and stay on at his post.
One of his associates said: “Maina has not been found guilty of any offence yet and all that he needs to do is to come out of hiding and defend himself and use the opportunity of the case he had filed to hang on until the matter is finally resolved.
Meanwhile, the details of how the Federal Government plans to discipline, Maina, who is an Assistant Director at the Customs, Immigrations, Prisons and Police Pension Office, CIPPO, have begun to emerge.
Vanguard gathered from top civil servants that the government can easily throw out Maina from the service for absconding from his duty post for over three days without approval from the Head of Service of the Federation.
A senior official in the HoS office said yesterday that Maina’s action, Absence from Duty without Leave, is punishable under Section 4 of the Public Service rules of 2008 and could lead to dismissal.
Absence from duty without leave is also classified under serious misconduct, such as bribery, corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, sabotage and wilful damage to public property.
Rule 030407 of Section 4 states: “The ultimate penalty for serious misconduct is dismissal and any officer so dismissed, forfeits all claims to retiring benefits, leave or transport grant etc subject to the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2004.”
Rule 030408 says: “When an officer is dismissed, no notice or emolument in lieu shall be given to him or her and the dismissal shall take effect from the date he or she is notified thereof.
It was learnt that it was in a bid by the Presidency, which has been threatened by the NASS to sack Maina or face its wrath, to deal with him, that the Hos ordered the Ministry of Interior Permanent Secretary to query him and report back.
Although a query was promptly issued against Maina, it could not be ascertained as at press time, if indeed, he had collected and responded to the query.
The Federal Government may in the circumstance offload Maina from the service citing the non-response to the query as the justification for his dismissal.