By Emman Ovuakporie
Abdulrashid Maina, one-time celebrated technocrat, fights for survival as corruption haunts him.
It’s a case of the hunter becoming the hunted after Maina, in 2009-2013, tried all he could muster to reform the corruption-ridden civil service pension scheme.
As a reporter covering Maina then, I saw him as a man who did his best within the short period I covered his Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform.
He introduced the biometric system which led to the registration of pensioners and civil servants.
He visited even those on sick bed registering them and ensuring their outstanding dues were paid.
The old men and women(pensioners) across Nigeria prayed for him but the bubble burst when allegations of Maina dipping his hands into the till was exposed and the Senate made sure he was shoved aside.
Maina was finally dismissed from service in March 2013 after a fight that showcased numerous organised protests at the National Assembly main gate.
Last Thursday, the continued probe into the disappearance, re-appearance, dismissal and reinstatement of Maina on a motion promoted by Hon Jagaba Adams Jagaba, APC, Kaduna, started at10.20am after Hon. Ali Madaki’s prayer opened a can of worms.
The investigative panel is headed by Madaki, APC, Kano, with Ayo Omidiran, APC, State of Osun, Sergius Ogun, PDP, Edo, and Kingsley China, PDP, Rivers as members.
Madaki narrated what transpired in the previous hearing at the Senate and immediately invited the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Engr Abubakar Magaji, to explain how Maina was reinstated.
The PS put the blame of the reinstatement of Maina on the footsteps of the Head of Service HoS, Winifred Oyo-Ita, who, according to him, gave the directive for the reinstatement.
He said, “The records I met on ground indicated that the HoS had directed the Senior Staff Committee, SSC, to reconsider the earlier dismissal of Maina”.
Based on this submission, Magaji claimed he simply followed a laid down procedure and subsequently referenced the findings to the Federal Civil Service Commission for consideration and the HoS for further action.
He argued, “It’s left for that person to disagree or agree on the issue”.
This approach did not go down well with Oyo-Ita and, in her response, she said, “Who is that person? I’m not that person please….”
Madaki immediately intervened and asked that the HoS should be placed on oath.
She started,”First of all, it is not possible for the Ministry of Interior to hold any SSC meeting without the directive of the HoS of the Federation. “
“The Federal Civil Service Commission has the constitutional mandate of overseeing all matters of appointments, promotion, reinstatement and disciplinary issues in the service.
“And in handling disciplinary matters, ministries communicate to the Federal Civil Service Commission through the office of the HoS. On the submission I made on page 17, there is a letter from the FCSC to the HoS, and the head of that letter is re-demand for update on the reinstatement of Abdulrashid Maina as Director of the Federal Civil Service, it is dated 21st June, 2017.
“It is this letter sent from the Federal Civil Service Commission conveying the directive of the Attorney General that the Federal Ministry of Interior should within seven days convene the Senior Staff Committee meeting and send its report back to the FCSC through the office of the Head of Service.
“The Head of Service was responding to the directive contained in this letter which was initiated from the Attorney General’s office and we then directed the Ministry of Interior accordingly to convene the Senior Staff Committee meeting.
“So for the Permanent Secretary of Interior to claim that the directive of reinstating Maina came from the office of the Head of Service of the Civil Service of the Federation is a bit limited in the facts of the matter.
“The Permanent Secretary Interior also made reference that at the original instance of Maina’s dismissal, that when the Senior Staff Committee meeting sat, it referred its recommendations to the office of the Head of Service and the Federal Service Management Committee was convened to look into the recommendations of the ministry and it is now saying that instance, the federal service management committee was not convened.
“If at all they acted on a directive from the office of the Head of Service to reinstate Maina, then it is a process for conveyance for reinstatement instructions.
“ The Federal Civil Service Commission would send the letter to the office of the Head of Service and also send another letter to the beneficiary of that reinstatement under flying seal of the Head of Service.
‘The Ministry of Interior did not wait to get a posting instruction from the office of Head of Service, they went ahead and reinstated Maina and assigned him duties.
“So these are the three points I have to make to completely discountenance the attempt by the Permanent Secretary Interior to insist that they acted in a legal manner while trying to make that claim that there was a legality from the office of the Head of Service”.
At this point, Madaki asked,” What does it mean by a letter with standard of a flying seal? Some of are laymen here”
The HoS replied:”Under the flying seal; normally in administrative process in the service, an officer cannot be written an official letter directly from another official body without it passing through his superiors before it is sent to the officer and that is the normal line of administrative correspondence. And the superior must endorse the letter to that officer”.
Madaki asked her,”Who gave Maina his letter of reinstatement?”
Response:” I did not endorse that letter. Last week I brought the original letter for sighting, that letter was never given to Maina, it is still in my possession. But from what we gathered, what the ministry of interior did was that they just acted on an advance copy that was copied to them by the federal civil service commission for information purposes only”.
One of the panel members asked the PS Interior: “The lawyers of Maina showed us a letter signed by your office. Do you have any document to back that action?
Magaji: “From my understanding there are two issues here; the reinstatement of Maina is different from Maina’s reporting to Interior.
“Reinstatement of Maina could not have been done without the office of the head of the civil service of the federation endorsing the senior staff committee meeting and the reinstatement of Maina could only be done by the federation civil commission; they are mandated to recruit, employ, promote and discipline.
“So that letter, the federal civil service commission issued to Maina to the head of service, whether issued or not, it is whether Maina was reinstated by a constitutional body. That letter passed through 100 people’s hand because it wasn’t delivered in an air tight envelope to the office of the head of service.
“ Maina reported to the director of human resources.
I was in the office and he came and told me that Maina has reported. I said Maina I saw your letter of reinstatement, I cannot assign you, I cannot give you any office, I cannot put you back into service, till when I receive further directives from the office of the head of service.
That was why on my way out I directed my officer, put up a letter to the office of the head of service informing her of the arrival of Maina. That letter was done wrongly because I didn’t look at it, when it was sent out I wasn’t around, I fell sick. The person who quoted that letter made a mistake by making a reference to the head of service letter. Which when the head of service called my attention, after I was discharged from the hospital, I asked her to allow me to contact the office”.
Panel member: Is it the right procedure for you to go ahead based on your copy from civil service commission, to give instructions to document Maina without getting any communication from the office of the head of civil service of the federation?
Magaji: It is not the right procedure. Maina was never documented and he was never assigned. So for the office of the head of service to say that Maina was documented, if he was documented that copy would have been sent to her.
Panel member: Someone who the senior staff disciplinary committee sacked. In that meeting some people wanted to debate whether he should be reinstated or not but your legal department made a very valid point, they said look this is an instruction from the office of the Attorney General, so they cannot debate an instruction. You are here telling us that it was from the head of the civil service when the committee said it was a directive. Where is the true position? It sounds contradictory, may be you need to clarify that.
After this meeting, under your directive, a letter was issued from your office directly to Maina. Do you have the power according to civil service rules to reinstate or give appointment in the civil service?
Magaji:The letter that has been referenced was not done during my presence, I wasn’t around but civil service is an institution.
So if the legal officer decide to speak base on that, he may be looking at the letter from the FCSC but other people that are administrative officers because we are different; the legal officer understands the process of doing things different from human resources.
So in that meeting the legal adviser whatever he said was his own opinion. But at the end of the day, whatever is right is what is expected to be the conclusion of that meeting.
Member: You have confessed that you were not there; the communication or the person that instructed was the Attorney General of the federation based on this document.
Magaji: No, the Attorney General of the federation has no power to communicate to any MDA to conduct any type of meeting in reconsidering the reinstatement of any officer without the letter of the head of service.
When that letter from the Attorney General was sent to the federal civil service commission, a copy was also sent to the ministry but because they didn’t receive a letter directing the ministry SSC to hold a meeting, they did not hold that meeting.
When the office of the head of service sent this letter directing them to conduct senior staff meeting in considering the ministry position in dismissing Maina to reinstate him that was why the SSC was conducted.
If that SSC meeting holds without the representative from head of service present, it is null and void.
After the HoS and the PS had concluded their submissions, the AG, Malami Abubakar Malami, had his turn and, like Magaji, he exonerated himself and heaped the basket of errors on his aide, Kehinde Ogini, for sending an unauthorized correspondence to the FCSC.
He said,”I requested for court procedures to verify the claim that the National Industrial Court, NIC, had ordered Maina’s reinstatement in a letter dated Oct 5 and got no response.
“And I gave instructions that the letter be kept in view because there are questions around it that needed to be answered”.
A member of the panel,China, asked the AG to differentiate between the office of the Attorney to the Federation and Attorney General to the Federation.
The AG answered the question giving vivid explanatory notes on both offices.
He was further queried for not being attentive to his duties. Responding, the AG said:”The fact that I didn’t get a response from NIC arose my curiosity hence I directed it should be kept in view”.
The Acting Chairman of FCSC, Oluremi Akande, meanwhile, expressed surprise that the AG was denying the letter he sent to his commission.
Before rounding off proceedings of the day at about 1.45pm, Magaji appealed to the panel to put every blame on him being the administrative head of the Ministry, saying, “I take responsibility for every administrative error that has been committed in the course of this whole process of Maina’s reinstatement”.
Oyo-Ita, on her part, declared that Maina remained dismissed from service as far as the rules and her office were concerned.
The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, also made his submission before the House panel.
On looted assets recovered by the EFCC, Magu said Maina never handed over any asset to the commission, adding that assets in EFCC custody were those recovered by the EFCC in the course of its investigation of alleged pension thieves including Maina.
Magu argued that the only link between the EFCC and Maina was the participation of a few staff of the commission on the Maina Team.
“Maina has not a single seized asset he handed over to the EFCC, and if there are any of such, we would like to know the types of assets, the locations, the date of handing over and which officer signed the handing over document of the assets. So there can’t be any asset to be shared by the EFCC, and if there was any sharing, we would also like to know when, where, and who partook in the sharing from the EFCC”.
Asked why the EFCC vacated it’s earlier order declaring Maina wanted in 2015 as stated by the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, Magu denied the letter vacating Maina’s arrest, saying it was signed in December while he took over the EFCC in October of same year but did not instruct any Kabiru, a member of the Maina Team from the EFCC , to sign such a letter and that he was seeing the letter for the first time.
Speaking with journalists outside the venue, Magu made an appeal to Nigerians to stop glorifying corruption.
“His son Faisal Abdulahi has N1.5bn in his account and he is just seven years old and people are glorifying him”, the EFCC boss said.
“”He has mansions scattered all over the place; with which salary did he acquire such assets?”
Counsel to Maina, Muhammadu Sani Katu’s attempt to make a last-minute move was waved aside as the panel Chairman reminded him that the committee was not a court.
He later addressed journalists, claiming that Maina had an order from NIC where it was ruled that he should be paid all his entitlements.
According to him, NIC ordered Maina’s reinstatement since 2013 but could not produce any evidence to back his claim.
In his first appearance before the committee, he claimed that Maina earned October salary but could not prove it with a payment slip.
In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, told the committee that Maina’s name has been expunged from Federal Government pay roll since March 2013.
The Accountant General of the Federation,AGF, Ahmed Idris, corroborated the Minister’s position.