By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – In some flabbergasting manner, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami on Thursday denied knowledge of any letter reinstating the the former Chairman on Pension Reforms Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina to office as a Deputy-Director in the Ministry of Interior.
Malami made the denial at a public hearing instituted by Adhoc Committee of the House of Representative to unravel the disappearance, re-appearance, reinstatement and promotion of Maina in the federal civil service.
Recall that Maina was reported sacked in 2013 after a gargantuan allegation of financial misappropriation and embezzlement was leveled against him on the heels of the pension reforms assigned by the government.
Maina was consequently declared wanted by the Nigerian police, but he later mysteriously absconded only to recently made an appearance back in the country.
Following his reappearance, Maina was reinstated as a federal civil servant in the Ministry of Interior but the oduim and the uproar that trailed the development earned him a summary dismissal by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The AGF Malami was said to have masterminded Maina’s recall and reinstatement.
But in the hearing Thursday, the Attorney-General said the purported reinstatement, if it was, was a work in progress.
He said: “That letter of 21 Feb, when I was confronted with that letter by the senate, it didn’t ring a bell at all in my memory. What I did was going back to the office to call for the file. And then arising from the file, I could confirm that there was a letter from the Miana’s lawyer. I could confirm that I treated that letter in February and directed the line officer to treat it. I could confirm that the line officer revert back to a memo expressing an opinion with a draft letter, suggesting that I should direct that Maina should be reinstated.
“I could confirm that my mind was agitated over the content and the conclusion of that letter and I could confirm that I minuted on the on the letter of April that “develop further, opinion to convince me that the content and conclusion of the judgement in support of the Maina’s lawyer reasonably suggests a conclusion for a consequential effect to the judgment. I could confirm that there was no further correspondence from the line office untill sometime in May when the line officer now came up with additional memo and in that memo tried to justify the conclusion that I could direct for the reinstatement of Miana. And equally that in that memo, reference was made to court process relating to Indutrial court in which Maina filed an action against the federal government.
“And I could confirm as well that I minuted on that memo directing the officer to make available copies of those court processes that were not made available in support of the memo and I could confirm there was no further correspondence in that regard until sometime in October precisely on the fifth day of October when the line officer came up with a clean up copy of the letter seeking my endorsement. In that letter, he was making reference to the previous correspondence.
“And when the correspondence and processes could not ring bell in my memory until I read the letter with the hope to reduce the situation, it was the point at which the whole media issue surrounding the matter now evolved. So, what I am saying, in essence, my position is as far as Maina’s request for reinstatement was concerned, it was indeed, a work in progress as at the fifth day of October, 2017”.
Reminded however, by the Chairman of the Investigative Committee, Hon. Aliyu Madaki that two previous letters in the possession of the Committee dated Feb 21, 2017 and April 27, 2017, which were respectively signed by him requesting Miana’s reinstatement, Malami insisted that the letters to that effect couldn’t have emanated from his office.
“The letter giving express couldn’t have genuinely emanated from my office”, Malami insisted.
I heard about Maina’s reinstatement in the media, like every other Nigerian
His position, however ran at variance with that of the Head of Service of the federation, Mrs. Winfred Oyo Ita who insisted at the hearing that there were letters from the AGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC, directing Maina’s reinstatement.
Oyo Ita testified that she was surprised to hear about Maina’s reinstatement in the media like anyone else, submitting that the Ministry of Interior never acted on her letters.
She said that the decision to hold brief on the letters requesting Maina’s recall was borne out some inner conviction that a government which is thriving on anti-corruption fight could not have given any vent to such vice.
The Head of Service added that she has never received any notification that Maina challenged his dismissal in court since her appointment.
She said: “Maina was dismissed in 2013 from federal civil service.
“Sometime this year, letters began to come from AGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission, copied to my office
“AGF gave directed that Maina should be reinstated.
“When I got hold of the letter, I held on it.
“I learnt through the media that he had been reinstated. Those are the clarifications I have to make on this.
“No ministry has the authorities to issue reinstatement letters. When I learnt through the media and a letter from the Chief of Staff that Mr. Maina had been reinstated, I wrote a letter to Perm Second, Ministry of Interior.
“The permanent secretary never acted on any letter from my office. The Federal Civil Service Commission has its own mandate
“It is surprising that without my conveying this letter, the ministry of Interior went ahead to reinstate Maina.
“I decided to hold onto that letter to seek further clarification. I was concerned that the decision to reinstate Maina may not have been in the interest of the present administration. I held on because Mr. Maina may not have cleared the issue with the security agencies.
“I have not received such notifications from the time I took over.”
Asked why she could entertain any letter from the AGF as against the Civil Service practices and norms, Oyo Ita said that the Office of the Attorney General as the first legal office of the country was not thought to be insensitive to the law.
“The AGF is the number legal authority of this country. So, whatever legal decision he has would not be discarded just like that”, she said.
In his own testimony also, the Acting Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Mr. Joseph Akande said that Maina was sacked for dereliction of duty.
He equally confirmed that the AGF wrote in letters requesting the recall of Miana.
“Mr. Maina was declared absent from duty 2013 and attempts to locate him proved abortive. The Ministry informed the HoS for query. The Ministry of Interior gave the query. They were unable to locate him.
“A letter was addressed to Maina. When Mr. Maina Was unable to respond to the query, the ministry considered it, Senior Staff Committee recommeded to the ministry that Mr. Maina should be dismissed. Sometime in 2014, Mr. Maina wrote the commission, appaeling that the committttee should reconsider and review the dismissal.
“In January, 2017 the Commission received a letter from AGF and Minister, dated 19 Jan which was also copied to the HoS- demanding update on the dismissal
“The second letter also came that he is the chief legal officer of the country and Maina’s dismissal cannot stand…so, we looked at it and wrote to the interior to advise us…”
Akande also stated that it could not have been possible to ignore letters from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
We have no hand in Maina’s saga-Interior Minister
Surprises flashed through the faces of those present at the hearing when the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abduralman Danbazzua told the Committee that his Ministry had no knowledge of Maina’s disappearance, re-appearance, reinstatement and promotion of Maina in the federal civil service.
“The Ministry has no hand”, he said simply.
When the committee Chairman, Hon. Aliyu Madaki asked of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the Minister said “The perm secretary is on medical leave. We are expecting him back later this week.
With that the chairman said: “We will wait for the Perm Sec to return to personally make his appearance.”
Yet at another instance in the course of the hearing, the committee tried to elicit more reactions from the Minister, but he maintained his earlier position of not having any knowledge of the saga.
“I do not have personal knowledge of that. I don’t have anything to say on that. Maybe, the Perm Sec might have something to say on that”, Dambazzau said.
He however, made an attempt to get a Director in the ministry to speak but the staff told the committee that she just resumed work in the ministry not too long ago and as such had no knowledge of the issue
At that point, the Committe chairman ruled that they would wait for the permanent secretary to return.
“We will allow the Perm sec to come and handle that”, Hon. Madaki said
Maina not sacked, still working for FG even as at last month-Counsel
The gale of testimonies at the hearing however took a dramatic dimension when Maina’s counsel and representative, Mr. Muhammad Katu stated that his client was never sacked by any government contrary to the submissions of the Head of Service and the Chairman of the Federal Service Commission.
Put succinctly, Katu said that Maina was still discharging his duties for the federal government even up to October, 2017.
He pleaded more time for the committee to tender evidence.
He added that Maina disappeared because of the threat to his life, saying that with time, he is likely to appear before the committee to testify.
Katu also asked the committee to protect Maina from arrest by the security agencies to enable him appear.
Katu said: “I will tell you categorical clear that Maina was not dismissed. There are prodcedures for everything. A query was issued by a senate committee and Maina went to court. The said that the procedures were not followed and they set it aside.
The query was signed on the 15 of Feb, 2013. We went to court on the 4th of Feb, 2013.
We responded to the query on the 18 immediately and reiterated the fact that the matter was already in court.
“Give Maina a protection from all security agencies so that he will appear in person before the committee
“Maina had to disappear because there was so much threat to his life.
“The issue of his dismissal came up.
“He still worked for the federal government after his purported dismissal. It is not true for anybody or anybody to say that Maina was dismissed from Civil Service.
“By tomorrow, we will show you documents. I will go further to let you know that files were sent to Maina even as at last month for him to treat. 23 files were sent to him to munite in his capacity as Acting Director. There was a matter in court. The question is that whether those who dismissed him had the powers.”.
But at that point, a member of the Committee, Hon. Ayo Omidiran remined Katu that on August 4, 2014 Maina appealed for reversal of his sack and reinstatement.
“We ‘re not aware Maina had police officer guiding him, still on his trial-Police
Also testifying, the Nigerian police denied sending policemen as guards to Maina during his assignment.
The Inspector General of Police, IGP represented at the hearing by the Deputy Inspector of Police, DIG in charge of Research and Planning at the Headquarters, Mr. Valentine Tochukwu gave the remarks.
He also said that the Nigerian Police had no hand in the saga, hinting that the security agency is still trailing Maina.
“The Nigeria police has no role whaterver in the pension reforms as no police officer was a member of the panel. The police did not play any role. The police has no knowledge of the circumstance that led to his removal.
“The police did not play any role in the disappearance. We don’t have record of any police officer guiding Maina. Please, let us know if there any record of any police officers. There was a red alert. We are still looking for Maina”, he said.
In the same vein, the Acting Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC represented by Mr. Bako Abdulahi said that the case was not within their mandate.
“The case is not within the mandate of the ICPC. We appeared out of respect for the committee”, he said.
Adjourning the sitting to November 30, 2017, the Chairman of the Committee enjoined other relevant stakeholders who were yet to make presentations to do so early next week.
“We have gone far on this and we believe that in days to come, we will hear more from all the actors. We plead with those who have not made presentation to do that”, Madaki said.