By Rotimi Fasan
AT his last appearance at a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Abdulrasheed Maina, former chair of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, was in a wheelchair.
He came to the court brandishing a medical report stating that he was too ill to stand trial. Maina desired a bail to enable him go take care of his health-or so his counsel argued.
After several years as a fugitive from the law, he has only recently been put up for trial for alleged fraud running into billions of naira during his short spell as chair of the PRTT. Apparently on exile, Maina nevertheless visited Nigeria at random, right under the watch of security agencies who all but assisted him in his attempt to return to the civil service as a higher ranked officer before he was exposed. Last week’s appearance in court during which he turned in ill was his second.
Surely, our man is not only too used to a life of comfort to endure any disruption to his cosy routine, he must also have taken more than a leaf from the corpulent rule books of past looters. His corpulent figure and “rosy” cheeks proclaim a life of ease. It belies a serpentine sliminess and poisonousness that are best described by the likes of his nephew, Sadiq Abdulahi Ismaila, that has felt its fury.
Maina, Ismaila has alleged in an exclusive report by The Nation a couple of weeks ago, had had him tortured by goons masquerading as Department of State Service operatives for pilfering millions of dollars belonging to Maina. It was that same Maina whose son, Faisal, allegedly pulled a gun on security agents out to arrest his father, that appeared in court last week all too weak to walk without aid or stare directly at the cameras.
For all I care, Maina could as well audition for a lead role in a Nollywood movie and might give the likes of Olu Jacobs and Richard Mofe-Damijo a good run for their money. He strained all through his court performance to look away from the cameras. Clearly, he did not like the optics of his being in a wheel chair but he needed it to build his application for bail. Maina now postures as a man of very fragile constitution. Such was the fragility of his health that, he claims, he experienced increased blood pressure after Justice Okon Abang, a man not afraid of controversies and before who he appeared, ordered him to stop staring at the bench.
Was there a nerve war playing out between judge and accused only for the latter to turn around and play victim? Was each sizing the other up before one capitulated in the mind game? Maina may not look the part of a bulldozer but he appears capable of more wreckage than that monstrous vehicle. None but a man of grit and steel could be facing prosecution for the crime he has been accused of. It takes a mean-as-knife, cold-blooded operator to successfully carry through what he is standing trial for.
Let’s not forget. He, in cahoots with others, is alleged to have looted about N24 billion of pensioners’ funds. These are mostly senior citizens, old Nigerians whose life savings Maina and company decimated, sending them to their unhappy graves after decades of slavish labour. Had they led one of the murderous groups that prowled the killing fields of Kigali at the height of the genocidal war in 1994, Maina and his collaborators could not have been more effective.
Not a few of what Maina used the stolen funds to acquire have been traced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. They include choice properties across several countries, notably, the United Arab Emirates where Maina relocated while running away from justice. In Nigeria alone, no less than 29 properties, including seven houses across five states and Abuja have been identified and recommended for forfeiture by the EFCC. About $1.7 million was recently discovered in one of Maina’s hideaway residences in Niamey, the capital city of Niger.
Maina’s modus operandi is simply stupefying. How could he own the kinds of items that were discovered on him after his arrest? According to a report in The Nation, “items retrieved from Maina and his son, Faisal, include 31 SIM Cards of UAE, MTN, 9Mobile and Airtel; 19 handsets; one iPad and two laptops; 13 flash drives and Kentucky US ID card; UAE Certificate of Naturalization; and UAE ID card”. What does a man of simple means need all of these for?
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It was in the wake of all this, after he was recently arrested and is now being prosecuted that Maina remembered to fall ill and apply for bail. Whether truly ill or not, Maina must face the law. But the elderly people, many of who died and daily die on long queues waiting to claim their pension, these senior citizens whose life savings were stolen without conscience, were not given a second chance on life.
This is not a case of convicting a man before he is found guilty. There is no way, in several life times as a civil servant, anybody could legitimately have acquired the monies and properties listed. He has done badly by and mortally wronged the people of this country. No degree of faked ill health should protect him from the law. It has become a tradition for both alleged and confirmed criminals to claim ill health once they are called to account.
Once these individuals are let loose, where their prosecutors don’t deliberately bungle the case against them, they move on to enjoy the proceeds of their crime. Alison-Madueke could now be pronounced a cancer survivor: she was spotted on the streets of the United Kingdom long after she was supposedly bedridden with cancer. Ibrahim Magu might be right: it’s time to go after these criminal doctors issuing fraudulent medical reports to looters of our commonwealth.