By Soni Daniel Henry Umoru, Ben Agande, Emman Ovuakporie, Favour Nnabugwu & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to spare anyone found to have been involved in facilitating reinstatement into service of fugitive Assistant Director in the Ministry of Interior, Abdulrasheed Maina, describing the development as an embarrassment.
The party’s declaration came on a day the two arms of the National Assembly, Senate and the House of Representatives, asked the President to sack and prosecute Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Interior Minister, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), and all others involved in the reinstatement of Maina. Maina was former head of the Presidential Task Force on Pensions Reforms.
This is even as armed operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday sealed six properties allegedly belonging to the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task team, Abdulrasheed Maina in Kaduna State.
Also yesterday, details emerged of how Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice bypassed the Head of Service of the Federation and used the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to reinstate Maina.
In a formal reaction to the incident, APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, described the incident as a huge embarrassment to the Buhari administration and the ruling party which rode to power on the mantra of “change.”
He told journalists that the party would, however, not dissipate its energy in replicating the actions of the President who had already ordered a probe of the entire scam.
“We are all shocked like any other person. It is almost unbelievable that such a thing can happen. However, we are all delighted that President Buhari has taken a very decisive, punitive action against those that are involved.
“We are also delighted that he has ordered a full scale investigation into the circumstances that led to this individual being reinstated into public office. We believe as a party that whoever that was part of this or found to have been part of this must face appropriate consequences because it is an embarrassment to the party, government and it is unacceptable.
Previous probe reports
Having failed to act on previous probe reports regarding activities of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency NIA, Ayo Oke, the APC said Nigerians must have faith in the ability of the President to right all wrongs.
“I cannot comment on this because it is the same President that has taken a decisive action on this that still has the other reports. In his wisdom, he must have a reason and unless we know those reasons, we cannot come to the conclusion that he has not acted.
“We have to be willing to admit that in his judgment, he does have all the facts because we are not sitting in that chair. We have no doubt in our minds that the President will do what is necessary and do what is right.
“But he does not have to act because everybody wants him to act. He has to exercise the best judgment at all times. So, if we are satisfied that he is acting in the best interest of the nation, definitely we cannot continue to insinuate that he will shield these people.
“He was the one who ordered that the investigation be carried out and he is the one who ordered that the SGF and NIA boss be removed from office and we have not heard that they have returned to their duty posts.
“So, definitely, action will be taken on them. I think we should just be kind and wait for Mr President to act on that before we come to the conclusion that he has not acted,” said Abdullahi.
He added that the party will not set up an independent panel to investigate the incident.
“Why should the party set up an independent investigation team as if it is not our government? There is no need to set up one because it is our government.
“The President as the leader of the party, is not independent of the party. We are confident that the President will do what is necessary.”
Senators indict Malami, ask Buhari to fire him
Meanwhile, senators yesterday indicted the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for being the mastermind of the clandestine return to the country and subsequent placement at the Ministry of Interior of former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdullahi Abdulrasheed Maina.
Senators, who took time to speak during discussions on the point of order raised by Senator Isa Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi South) on the return of Maina in controversial circumstances, also indicted Interior Minister, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd).
They also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently sack the two ministers, saying the President has surrounded himself with those undermining him and causing confusion in the country.
Senate sets up ad-hoc committee
Consequently, the Senate set up an ad-hoc committee to determine the circumstances that led to the return of Maina to the country and his being compensated with a position as a Director in the Federal Civil Service, in spite of the fact that he had been under watch.
The committee, headed by Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishments and Public Services, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa Central), has as members the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of Senate Committees on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Interior and Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Services.
While hailing President Buhari for acting promptly in dismissing Maina from the civil service, the Senate, however, said it lacks confidence in the expected outcome of the presidential committee’s report.
Earlier in his presentation yesterday, Senator Misau, who spoke under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended, described the incident as a sad development.
In his contribution, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central), who noted that President Buhari had it as a duty to hold the ministers responsible, 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 chose between Abdulrasheed Maina and loyalty to the country. It got so bad that Maina had over 30 police officers attached to him.
“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.”
Also contributing, Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central), 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.”
Also contributing, Senator Attai Idoko (PDP, Kogi East), 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.”
In his contribution, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-East), said: “The Senate must 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.”
Also contributing, Senator Tayo Alaosoadura (APC, Ondo Central), said: “The President has set up a committee to investigate. We should not call names of people who have not been indicted; we should not duplicate issues. If the executive has set up a committee, we should not do the same thing. We must not set up committees every time.”
In his contribution, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), said: “It is pathetic. We should 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 Isa Hamman Misau. Today, it is Senator Isah versus the Federal Government.”
In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided, commended senators who spoke, saying “we are all very disturbed and I would like the committee to work hard on this matter that borders on our security, corruption and how we manage the public service.”
Reps also set up probe committee
Similarly, the House of Representatives also set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate those involved in Maina’s reinstatement and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for sacking Maina immediately he got wind of his reinstatement.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Aminu Jaji, declared yesterday that the House will, in a week fish out the security agents who accompanied Maina in a motorcade to Maiduguri.
The lawmakers also recommended strong sanctions against any person or persons implicated in the scandal, including the AGF and Interior Minister.
This resolution of the House was sequel to a motion promoted by Jagaba Adams Jagaba (APC, Kaduna), under matters of public importance, entitled: “The Disappearance, Appearance, Appointment and Final Dismissal of Maina.”
After the usual House procedures for such motions, the presiding officer, Yakubu Dogara, asked Jagaba to lead the debate.
In his submission, Jagaba went down memory lane, reminding the House of how Maina was appointed Chairman, Presidential Task Force in 2010 to check the complaint in the country’s Pension system by President Goodkuck Jonathan.
He prayed the House to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter, saying “Maina came back from self-exile and was posted to his former ministry (Interior) and given double promotion from Assistant Director to Acting Director.”
In his contribution, Deputy Majority Whip, Pally Iriase (APC, Owan East/West Federal Constituency, Edo), argued that “since the Presidency has waded into the matter, we should not get involved but the action of the President so far is not enough.
“The embarrassment to the country is enormous and there are too many questions begging for answers, such as where was Maina before he was recalled and even elevated and not only reinstated but promoted?”
Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna), also spoke in the same vein, saying:
“I applaud Buhari for firing Maina but there are questions to be answered which are how did Maina entered this country and he was not remanded and went unpunished.
“There are too many people working against the change mantra of the government that are working with the President who want to bring down this country.”
In his contribution, Victor Nwokolo (PDP, Delta), queried: “The question to ask is how did he come in, beating all our security agencies without being caught?
“There is a need to also investigate all our security agencies because our borders are porous, the whole thing goes beyond the civil service.”
I acted in public interest — Malami
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday, his broke silence on the allegation that he spearheaded the recall, promotion and posting of Maina to the Ministry of Interior.
Malami, who grudgingly spoke to Vanguard, last night, said he would rather respond to the avalanche of allegations against him when he formally appears before the Senate, which had summoned him to speak on his role on the entire saga.
Malami, who did not make reference to anyone, nonetheless, described the allegations made against him as ‘a grand conspiracy and mischief’ but did not explain who the conspirators were and what the mischief was.
Pressed to clear himself of the weighty allegations, Malami said: “I am a legal practitioner, who is always guided by law and public interest and will therefore not do anything that deviates from the law or breaches public interest.
“I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know the truth in the entire saga and I am ready to speak directly to them when I appear before the Senate since I have been summoned by the legislature, which is investigating the matter.
“I will not however talk until I get clearance from my principal on the matter and I look forward to addressing anxious Nigerians on the matter when I appear before the Senators,” the minister said.
How AGF used FCSC to reinstate Maina
Meanwhile, details of how the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice bypassed the Head of Service of the Federation and used the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to reinstate the wanted chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Force on Pensions Reforms, emerged last night.
This came as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday continued with identification and marking of no fewer than six houses in many parts of the country traced to the wanted Maina.
Spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the raid on the identified properties but did not disclose nature and locations of the property.
“We have continued our efforts to track Maina down and our operatives have also intensified the identification of properties which he might have used the proceeds of corruption to secure while in office,” the spokesman said.
Top federal officials conversant with how the AGF got Maina back into the federal service after he had absconded for over three years, described Abubakar Malami’s action in the recall and promotion of Maina as desperate and a breach of known public service rules.
Vanguard learned that in his desperate bid to return Maina to his post, Malami wrote two memoranda to Oyo-Ita to recall Maina based on the lame argument that no court of the land had convicted him of any offence but the woman ignored him since she was sure the chief law officer had breached established rules of the civil service.
The development emerged, as some Nigerians yesterday questioned the President’s power to sack Maina without referring to the appropriate government body with relevant powers to do so.
But on its twitter handle, the Presidency said Buhari breached no known law, having given approval to the appropriate government agency saddled with the responsibility of disciplining erring officials.
The Presidency said: “Reports that due process was not followed in the disengagement of Mr. Maina from service are incorrect.
“The President directed the appropriate authorities to effect the disengagement in compliance with due process.
“President Buhari will continue to ensure that due process is followed every step of the way.”
‘FCSC letter, not HoS recalled Maina’
A top source with inside knowledge of the matter told Vanguard yesterday that Malami did not only recommend Maina’s recall, but also cleared him of any wrong-doing, thereby paving the way for the FCSC to recall him.
“Look, go and read the letter recalling Maina and you will see that it emanated from the Federal Civil Service Commission and not the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation because Mrs. Oyo-Ita snubbed Malami’s two requests to recall the wanted man,” a senior government official said.
“It was after Oyo-Ita had questioned and rejected Malami’s two letters asking for the reinstatement of Maina, that the Justice Minister turned to the FCSC for assistance to get his desire accomplished.”
“That was why Maina’s letter of reinstatement dated September 18, 2017, and signed by one Mustapha L. Sulaiman for the FCSC chairman, was written from the FCSC, even without an input from the HoS,” the official said.
Speaking on the matter, Chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigerian, ASCSN, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation Chapter, Comrade Bolaji Sunday Olaiya, said it was wrong to drag Oyo-Ita into the mess created by the AGF and the FCSC in their bid recall Maina at all costs.
Olaiya said: “If anybody is to be questioned, it is the man who signed the letter on behalf of the HoS, giving the impression that the letter came from the office.
“The person must have soiled his hands somewhere along the line as you can see, that even the reference ‘4029’ which is used in the letter is fake and incomplete. The 4029 is not a complete reference; he is trying to mislead the public and the Nigerian people. The correct reference starts with ‘FC4029″.
“He is misleading the general public by referring this letter as if it emanated from the HoS. This letter he referred to dated 18th September; does not exist but it emanated from the Federal Civil Service Commission.”