By Rotimi Fasan
In July 2015, Abdulrasheed Maina who was last week arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services, reportedly escaped from the country to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate. He was the Director of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior. But it was in his capacity as Chair of the Pension Reform Task Team, now defunct, that Maina had a run-in with the law. Or so it was reported. Maina alongside Steve Oronsaye, former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, OsarenkhoeAfe and Fredrick Hamilton, among others, were charged before a Federal High Court in Abuja on 24 counts bordering on fraud and obtaining by false pretences (is that a euphemism for 419?) to the tune of N2.1 billion in their management of the pension funds. Generally, the Nigerian Civil Service is a cesspool of fraud but perhaps this should not be surprising considering that heads of the Civil Service somehow manage to get entangled in issues of fraud and corrupt practices. It was only weeks ago that Winifred Oyo-Ita was sent on terminal administrative leave following corruption charges. As was the case with Oronsaye and the pension funds, Oyo-Ita was forced to forfeit properties and funds worth billions of naira.
While others involved in the pension fund swindle were hauled before the law and have been having their time in court, AbdulrasheedMaina was the special one, the sacred cow that could not be made accountable. Rather than face the law, this former director, a relatively junior officer considering the amount of funds he was put in charge of, decided to go on vacation to Dubai. Yes, he went on holiday even though the authorities wanted us all to believe that Maina was on the run from the law; in other words, a fugitive. But the reason Maina could not be properly described as a fugitive is that he regularly came into the country, more or less dividing his time between Dubai and Nigeria. Not only did Maina do this in plain sight of security agencies and their agents, he was in fact accorded full protection by the agencies. He went around heavily guarded and surrounded by state security agents. On one near-fatal occasion, Maina’s security details had a face-off with agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Against the advice of (who else?) Oyo-Ita (her words) after she took over as Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Maina was not only recalled from his Dubai base (assuming he stayed there for any long period), he was also asked to return to duty at a higher position. In plain language,Mainawas promoted. Was this as reward for his crime against the people of this country? Only Abba Kyari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff and AbubakarMalami, have the explanation to that. For, as Oyo-Ita told Nigerians, the decision to recall Maina was hatched between AbubakarMalami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Abba Kyari. It was the reason for that infamous spat between Kyari and Oyo-Ita during a Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, on one of those occasions President Buhari was on medical vacation in the United Kingdom. Then Oyo-Ita had alleged in a memo, that not only Abba Kyari and Malami but also President Buhari knew of the reinstatement of Maina against her informed advice. Apparently, Kyari did not like the president being outed in that manner.
The quarrel between Kyari and Ita played out before members of the FEC and in living colours on the screen to the rest of Nigerians, on the occasion of the swearing in of Boss Mustapha as Secretary of the Government of the Federation. This was in November 2017, two years ago. All of this happened then only because Maina’s cover as a so-called fugitive was blown off and the attempt to sneak him back into the Civil Service was exposed. To date, many Nigerians believe the sacking of Oyo-Ita and the rumoured ongoing travail of Osinbajo had something to do with this episode, among a few others. The simple moral here is that Maina is just a face for more powerful elements in the corridors of power. Which is one reason many Nigerians found it difficult to accept the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari government and have questioned Abuja’s commitment to ridding the country of corruption.
Not only is Maina connected to powerful forces, he is both conscious and full of that awareness. Which was why he went about openly with full security details, hiding right under the nose of those who pretended to be looking for him. Those who blew off his cover were not unaware of Maina’s connections. They probably wanted to call attention to it by their action. Awareness of Maina’s privileged standing could also not have been lost on those with whom he was charged for fraud. It must have been a reason for their silence when they were being prosecuted and Maina was nowhere to be found. They knew or were assured by Maina or others better placed that the charges were headed for nowhere. They knew that at the very least Maina, if not they who had to COOPERATE with him in his schemes, was a mere messenger of the Ogas-at-the-top and there was no way a messenger could be held to account in plain sight of his sponsors.
Otherwise, could any Nigerian have pulled the kind of stunt Maina’s 20-year-old son pulled on the DSS operatives who went to arrest his father on Monday last week and still have lived to tell the story? Like Omoyele Sowore, convener of the #Revolution Now campaign, Maina and his son were in a hotel (obviously known to the security agents). But unlike Sowore who had only ventilated with words about overthrowing a government and had not resisted arrest, Maina’s son pulled a gun on the security agents. Elsewhere, he would have been shot dead. Had Sowore pulled a gun on the DSS operatives that went to effect his arrest, would that not have been taken as proof of his readiness for a bloody revolution? How many Nigerians had the luxury of even explaining themselves when accosted by Nigerian security agents before they were shot dead by the likes of the same security elements on whom Maina’s son had pulled a pistol and nothing happened to say nothing of the heavens falling? Power pass power, abi?
Over and above his arrest, Maina has a lot to account for and it is what he has to say and give back by way of restitution that should interest us all. Let his trial begin and let him pay fully.