By Soni Daniel, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dirisu Yakubu
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, angrily ordered the immediate dismissal from the civil service of the federation, of Abdulrasheed Maina, the erstwhile boss of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
President Buhari, Vanguard learned, was greatly embarrassed by the outrage that followed the recall and repositioning of Maina as a director, having abandoned the service upon the indictments raised against him on the misuse of an estimated N100 billion from the pension funds of the country.
The controversy over the recall again exposed the frail relationships within the administration as the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, accused the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, of lying against her, following his earlier claim that her office posted Maina to the Ministry of Interior as a director.
Meanwhile, the move was shadowed by diverse commendations and condemnations from different stakeholders.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, challenged the President to follow up the action by sacking Abdulrahman Dambazzau and Abubakar Malami, Ministers of Interior and Justice respectively over their alleged role in the surprised reinstatement of Maina into the civil service of the federation.
The PDP said even though protecting subverts has become part of the administration’s work ethic, it would not be silenced by what it claimed as the apparent determination of the All Progressives Congress, APC, administration to keep a deaf ear to such. Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State on his part, called Maina’s sack an afterthought saying it was done to save office.
Prof. Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti Corruption, PACAC, also called for the prosecution of those who absorbed Maina back into the service. The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL on its part said the development tended to validate claims of the existence of a corruption network within the administration.
President Buhari’s order for the sack of Maina was, however, welcomed by the Comrade Ayuba Wabba-led Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC.
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday raided two houses belonging to Maina in Abuja and sealed them off.
The action followed outrage across the country over reports that Maina, who became a fugitive from justice had been reinstated into the civil service of the federation and given double promotion, despite indictments raised against him pertaining to the misuse of pension funds.
The president’s move to dismiss Maina was conveyed through a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, who said the president also ordered an investigation into how Maina came to be recalled.
The sacking of Maina
Adesina said: “In a memo to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the President equally demanded a full report of the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior.
“The report is to be submitted to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, before the end of work today, Monday, October 23, 2017.”
A Presidency source, however, told Vanguard last night: ‘’I have confirmation that the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, has brought report on the re-engagement of Abdulrasheed Maina as directed by the President. This is being studied as other reports are being awaited.’’
Maina was sacked from the civil service in 2013 and was placed on the wanted list of the International Police, INTERPOL, by the EFCC.
Vanguard learned, yesterday, that despite arguments put forward to justify the recall of Maina as being based on a court order obtained from a Magistrate’s Court that the president was particularly peeved by the fact that the same Maina had abandoned his job for close to three years.
“The president could not understand how someone, who left his job for more than three years, could just have been recalled and promoted like that,” a senior presidency official said yesterday.
He nevertheless affirmed that the Maina issue was a carry over from the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“You recall that Maina as head of the Pension Task Force had told a meeting in the Presidential Villa, how the pension funds were shared and when he left the meeting, his vehicle was fired at, and maybe, that was how he fled from the country.”
Maina goes underground
The order by President Buhari for his immediate sack and the resolve by EFCC to fish him out by all means to face justice might have forced Maina, who was declared wanted by the EFCC in 2015, to go underground apparently to avoid being apprehended.
Checks in the Ministry of Interior, where he had been promoted to an acting director in charge of Human Resources vide a letter dated October 2, 2017, showed that he did not report to that office to join other workers as work resumed, yesterday.
The Spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Mr.Willie Bassey, denied knowledge of Maina’s presence or posting to the ministry but admitted reading about the controversies surrounding his reinstatement and posting to the office.
Apparently, in a bid to ward off public enquiry about his travails, Maina has tactically switched off all his three known GSM lines.
A call put to one of the lines yesterday afternoon reported that the line could not take any call at ‘this time’ while the other two indicated that they had all been switched off.
Apparently bolstered by the Presidential directive, EFCC operatives, yesterday, stormed one of the mansions which Maina reportedly bought with $2 million while serving as the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms in 2012.
Armed EFCC operatives descended on the sprawling edifice located at No. 10 Hamisu Musa Road, Jabi, and marked it ‘EFCC Keep Off.’
The mansion had earlier been marked by the EFCC, but Maina erased the marking.
It was learned that many other property said to have been acquired by Maina were being identified by the anti-graft agency for possible forfeiture to the federal government.
The Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the renewed efforts by the agency to fish out Maina to account for his actions.
It didn’t emanate from my office —HoSF
Meanwhile, the Head of Service of the Federation, HoSF, yesterday, washed her hands off the process that led to the reinstatement of Maina, saying his recall did not emanate from her office.
The HoSF in a statement by the Head of Media, Mohammed Manga, said she neither approved Maina’s reinstatement nor promotion to the rank of an acting director and posting to the Interior Ministry as Head of Human Resources.
Manga said, “The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) wishes to inform the public that the reinstatement and posting of Alhaji Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina never emanated from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
“Consequently, the purported reinstatement and posting by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation is totally erroneous and misleading.”
We know nothing of this — DSS
In the same vein, the Department of State Services, DSS, also washed its hands off the affair, saying it did not smuggle the embattled officer into his new office while on the wanted list of the EFCC.
The DSS in a statement made available to Vanguard last night said: “The DSS, hereby, states categorically that it has no hand in the recall or reinstatement of Mr Abdullahi Abdulrasheed Maina.
“There was no correspondence of any sort between the DSS and the Head of Service with respect to Mr. Maina. The DSS is not investigating him nor handling any matter connected to Maina and neither has the DSS ever forwarded any correspondence to Mr President or any arm of government for the recall or reinstatement of Maina.
“The Service is aware that Mr. Maina is a civil servant and any disciplinary action as regards Maina’s official conduct will, therefore, be handled as required by the civil service rules. So it will, therefore, be absurd for anybody to imply or insinuate that the DSS has a hand in the recall or reinstatement of Maina.”
It’s shocking — PDP
Reacting to the development, yesterday, the PDP in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, expressed shock at the manner of Maina’s reinstatement.
The party said: “We demand the immediate sack of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Abdulrahman Danbazzau, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who have been fingered in the illegal act of restoring Maina to office against good conscience.
“All people of good conscience will not forget in a hurry that Maina, who was given an assignment by the last administration of the PDP to superintend the now defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, dipped his hands into the jar and helped himself to N100 billion of what he was supposed to safeguard.
“With good conscience at fighting corruption, the PDP government then mandated the anti-corruption agencies to perform their constitutional duty. Maina fled, only to resurface in the country four months ago under the Buhari administration.
“While we are growing fatigued shouting ourselves hoarse in protest against nepotism, a clear form of corruption under this administration which has been elevated to state craft, we are appalled that the reinforcement of financial corruption by this government might soon lead to the demise of this nation if the celestial does not intervene,” the statement read in part.
The party also expressed worry over government’s inability to tolerate criticism, saying shielding criminals has become part of the ruling party’s work ethic.
“We are worried that the APC administration seems to have grown thick skin to constructive criticism, otherwise, no sane government, in spite of the open condemnation the party has received from Nigerians over its protection of those accused, will repeat another one as done in the case of Maina.
“The PDP wishes Nigerians can demand from the APC government, the civil service rule it relied upon in promoting a wanted criminal who had abandoned his duty post as an Assistant Director, to the position of a Director with all benefits attached.
“We wish the APC government will tell Nigerians where and when, and under which court jurisdiction, Maina was cleared of his criminal allegations of stealing, warranting his restoration to duty and getting rewarded with double promotion,” the statement continued.
“We are shocked and sad as well that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with its viable network under the administration of the PDP has suddenly lost steam to the point that it wasn’t aware of the entrance of a high class wanted criminal into the country until the media exposed it.
“Nigerians can see that the APC administration has taken the fire out of our security agencies like the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the likes.
“Nigerians will not forget in a hurry that the President Buhari administration has severally shown it’s commitments to protecting financial criminals who are willing to play ball and are known to be ardent supporters of the ruling party,” it added.
Citing instances to corroborate its claims against the Buhari-led government, the PDP urged the President to rise to the demands of his office and act in the interest of the nation.
“Nigerians have not forgotten in a hurry how the so-called corruption fighting government of President Buhari refused to allow the law take its course in the graft allegations involving the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke.
“The government seem to have also buried without shame, the expose by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu on the illegal award of contracts running to over $25 Billion by the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) who has told the world that he has the support of President Buhari in carrying out the heist.
“Though we know that the APC is like a dead horse immune to any positive prompting, we, however, will not do, but ask that the right thing be done.
“In this wise, we ask that President Buhari should for once, act like a President of a nation and not as a sectional leader whose ideas of right and wrong depends entirely on who is involved.
“We, therefore demand the immediate arrest and prosecution of Maina for his atrocities, arrest, and prosecution of those who helped him return to the country and got restored to his duty post with promotion,” the party stated.
Those involved should be arrested — Sagay
Reacting to the development, yesterday, Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), called for the arrest of those involved in Maina’s absorption into the service even as he lauded the president’s intervention.
“When a man accused of serious crimes, has been on the run and has been on the wanted list for what I will call a crime against humanity, when you deprive retired old people, who have served the country for decades and sacrificed for the country and have retired and looking forward to the small amount to live the rest of their lives with and one man comes and swoops away everything for himself, for me, that is a crime against humanity.
“Therefore, anybody who absolves a man like that who has been on the run, someone who has committed such heinous crimes and absolved him back quietly into the Civil Service of this country, that person, in my view is an accessory after the fact. In other words, whatever Maina is guilty of; he is guilty of supporting him after being aware of the crime. Such a person would be tried along with Maina.”
On the President’s directive, he said: “The President has given the right directive that he should be disengaged. You know the Presidency cannot do it directly; it has to be done by the Public Service Commission. The President has given the directive that he (Maina) should be disengaged, arrested, charged and tried.”
Fayose, Adeniran react
Governor Fayose, in his reaction described President Buhari and those around him as defenders and protectors of corruption. He said; “Even the former Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, who was accused of corruption by the Senate, removed from office unceremoniously and declared wanted is now the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Ikoyi, Lagos.
“When the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu raised allegation of award of $25 billion contracts without following due process against the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); Dr. Maikanti Baru, the Presidency was the one that defended him (Baru).
“Also, President Buhari has refused to act on the report of the committee that investigated the $43 million discovered in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, despite that Nigerians have been asking him to act on it.
“Even the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu was indicted of corruption by the Department of State Service (DSS) and all that was done by President Buhari was to ask the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to
investigate the DSS report. Up till today, nothing has been heard about it and Magu, despite his rejection by the Senate, is still acting as the EFCC chairman.
“It was also under this government of Buhari that Ahmed Gambo Saleh; the Supreme Court Registrar was indicted and put on trial for alleged over N2 billion fraud. The case against Gambo Saleh was withdrawn almost immediately, and he has been appointed the Secretary of the National Judicial Council (NJC). Not only that, he was made the Secretary of the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee, headed by Retired Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
“In the words of APC Senator, Shehu Sani, ‘when it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants.’
“Like I have said several times, as far as President Buhari is concerned, corruption involving his men is family affair, and one won’t be surprised if Maina is rewarded with bigger office very soon, just like others before him.”
Also speaking, the Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said: ‘’His reinstatement into the service shows that there is a corruption network at various levels of government. And it shows that not everyone is in support of Mr. President’s anti-corruption crusade. Obviously, those that brought him back through the back door have something in common with him. It is the vigilance of the media and other Nigerians who mean well that ensured that his coming back was dictated.
“Bringing him back also confirms the absence of cohesion among the various organs of the executive arm of government. His sack by the President shows that President has listening ears and is not averse to criticisms. Now that he has been sacked, he should be prosecuted since he had earlier been declared wanted by the EFCC.”