By Henry Umoru & Levinus Nwabughiogu
As Malami, Dambazau, Oyo-Ita appear before House c’ttee
•I don’t know how Maina was reinstated —AGF
•He wrote us through FCSC —HoS insists
•We‘ve no hand in his reinstatement— Interior Minister
•222 recovered properties shared by EFCC— Senate C’ttee
•No 222 pension properties to share — EFCC
ABUJA – Sacked Chairman of Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, yesterday, stunned the House of Representatives adhoc committee investigating his reinstatement into the public service that he was never sacked.
Maina’s statement came as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, denied knowledge of any letter reinstating him to office as a Deputy-Director in the Ministry of Interior.
But Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winfred Oyo Ita, insisted that there were letters from the AGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC, directing Maina’s reinstatement.
This is even as the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdurahman Dambazau, retd, said he had no hand in the reinstatement of the former presidential task team boss.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, raised the alarm that property recovered from Nigerians, organisations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC were allegedly being relooted by officials of the anti-graft agency.
Maina was never sacked — lawyer
Speaking at yesterday’s hearing organised by the adhoc committee, Maina, who was represented by his lawyer, Mr. Muhammed Katu, shocked the lawmakers with the declaration that he 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 and pleaded for more time to tender evidence.
He added that Maina disappeared because of the threat to his life, saying with time, he (Maina) would likely appear before the committee to testify.
Katu also asked the committee to protect Maina from arrest to enable him appear.
He said: “I will tell you categorically that Maina was not dismissed. There are procedures for everything. A query was issued by a Senate committee and Maina went to court. The court said procedures were not followed and they set it aside.
‘’The query was signed on February 15, 2013. We went to court on February 4, 2013.
We responded to the query immediately and reiterated the fact that the matter was already in court.
Why Maina disappeared
“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 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 minute in his capacity as Acting Director. There was a matter in court. The question is whether those who dismissed him had the powers.”
But at that point, a member of the committee, Ayo Omidiran reminded Katu that on August 4, 2014 Maina appealed for reversal of his sack and reinstatement.
My role in Maina’s case — AGF
Making his submissions before the committee, yesterday, the AGF, Abubakar Malami, said: “When I was confronted with that letter of February 21 by the Senate, it didn’t ring a bell at all in my memory. What I did was to go back to the office to call for the file.
‘’Arising from the file, I could confirm that there was a letter from 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 reverted 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 letter of April that “develop further opinion to convince me that the content and conclusion of the judgment in support of 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 officer up to sometimes 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 Maina. And I could equally confirm that in that memo, reference was made to court process relating to Industrial court where Maina filed an action against the federal government.
“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 sometimes in October, precisely on the fifth day of October (October 5), when the line officer came up with a clean copy of the letter seeking my endorsement. In that letter, he was making reference to the previous correspondence.
“When the correspondence and processes could not ring a 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 is that 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.”
Malami, Eyo-Ita differ
Reminded, however, by chairman of the Investigative Committee, Aliyu Madaki, that two previous letters in the possession of the committee, dated February 21, 2017 and April 27, 2017, signed by him requested Maina’s reinstatement, Malami insisted that the letters to that effect couldn’t have emanated from his office.
He said: “The letter couldn’t have genuinely emanated from my office. I heard about Maina’s reinstatement in the media like every other Nigerian.’’
His claim was, however, 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 said 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 the decision to hold brief on the letters requesting Maina’s recall was borne out of some inner conviction that a government which was fighting corruption could not have given any vent to such a vice.
Mrs, Oyo-Ita added that she had 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. Sometimes this year, letters began to come from AGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission, copied to my office.
“AGF gave directives that Maina should be reinstated. I learned through the media that he had been reinstated. Those are the clarifications I have to make on this.
“No ministry has the authority to issue reinstatement letters. When I learned through the media and a letter from the Chief of Staff that Mr. Maina had been reinstated, I wrote a letter to Permanent Secretary, 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 on to 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 against the civil service practices and norms, Oyo-Ita said the Office of the Attorney General, as the first legal office of the country, was not thought to be insensitive to law.
“The AGF is number one legal authority of this country. So, whatever legal decision he has would not be discarded just like that,” she said.
Why Maina was sacked —Akande
In his testimony, the Acting Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Mr. Joseph Akande, said Maina was sacked for dereliction of duty, confirming also that the AGF wrote 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. 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 recommended to the ministry that Mr. Maina should be dismissed.
‘’Sometimes in 2014, Mr. Maina wrote the commission, appealing that the committee should reconsider and review the dismissal.
“In January, 2017 the commission received a letter from AGF and Minister of Justice, dated January 19 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 ministry 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
Those present at the hearing, however, expressed surprise when the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Danbazzua, told the committee that his Ministry had no knowledge of Maina’s disappearance, re-appearance, reinstatement and promotion in the federal civil service.
“The Ministry has no hand,” he said simply.
But when the committee chairman, Aliyu Madaki, asked of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the Minister said: “The permanent 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.”
The committee tried to elicit more reactions from the Minister, but he maintained his earlier position that he had no 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 committee chairman ruled that they would wait for the permanent secretary to return.
Maina’s case not within our mandate — ICPC
Similarly, Acting Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, who was represented by Mr. Bako Abdulahi, said 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, chairman of the committee enjoined other relevant stakeholders 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.
222 recovered property shared by EFCC, Senate C’ttee
Meanwhile, the Senate has raised the alarm that the 222 property recovered from Nigerians, organisations by the Presidential Task Team on Pension and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, were allegedly being re-looted by officials of the anti-graft agency.
The alarm was raised, yesterday, by the Chairman of the Senate Ad- hoc Committee investigating the reinstatement and promotion of the former chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pensions, Abdulrasheed Maina, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, PDP, Bayelsa Central.
Senator Paulker, who raised a point of order, specifically alleged that his committee, in the course of carrying out its investigation on Maina saga, stumbled on vital information that revealed that about 222 recovered property, comprising palatial houses and hotels, handed over to EFCC by Maina before his removal in 2014, had been shared by top officials of EFCC or interested parties in the society.
According to him, the committee got the information of the looted property from submissions made to that effect by some of the invited government officials connected with the botched reinstatement and promotion of Maina.
Senator Paulker, who requested the Senate to expand the scope of his committee’s investigation in unravelling those involved in the shared loots, said: “For this alarming revelation sir, this committee requests the Senate to expand the scope of its investigation on Maina by extending it to the management of assets recovered by him and handed over to EFCC before his removal as chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pensions in 2014 and by so doing, extend the duration of the assignment.”
In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the committee must do everything possible to unravel those behind the alleged re-looting and report back in four weeks. Saraki said: “This is a very serious matter and more of large scale corruption going on in a forbidden place. We just hope that it remains in the realm of allegation and not as it is presented.”
The Paulker-led committee had in the last two weeks, had closed door sessions with the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau and others over the roles they allegedly played in the aborted reinstatement and promotion of Maina in the federal civil service after three years of disappearing from the public space on alleged mismanagement of pension funds.
No 222 Pension Properties to Share – EFCC
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Thursday slammed the Senate for claiming that no fewer than 222 property recovered from pension thieves by the agency had been re-looted.The anti-graft agency in a statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, explained that all forfeited property had been duly documented and were intact.
The agency said: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to comments attributed to the Chairman of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating the controversial reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Miana, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, alleging that officials of the Commission shared 222 properties which Maina’s Panel seized from pension fund thieves.
“This sweeping allegation, coming from a Senate Committee is disturbing more so as no attempt was made to verify the information from the Commission…
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are no 222 properties anywhere that were shared by anybody. ‘The EFCC did not receive a single property from Abdulrasheed Maina.