After a couple of days in detention, the senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, was released on bail. The question now is what happens next? Does Ndume’s brief incarceration compensate for the billions of naira for which Abdulrasheed Maina, the man for whom he stood surety after he was released on bail for his alleged conversions of billions of pensioners’ money for personal use? Does the arrest and subsequent release of Ndume now answer for Maina’s crime?
Have the courts ordered the sale of the N500 million property with which Ndume guaranteed Maina’s return when required by the law?
Or are we already into the business of putting sentiments above principle? Sentimental Nigerians, not least of them Ndume’s own political family, must have pulled strings behind the scene while arguing that the senator had suffered enough for a crime he did not commit.
It was the same way some of Orji Uzor Kalu’s colleagues viewed his incarceration for 12 years over a corruption issue that dragged through the courts for 12 years before he was eventually released and is now making moves to stand as a contestant for president in 2023.
Ali Ndume knew the risk he was taking by standing surety for an alleged criminal that had not showed the slightest sign that he was ready to give up what he allegedly stole or do the time for his crime. Maina is as spineless as they come. He is a coward through and through and is man of despicably poor principles if he has any principles at all.
His behaviour right from when he was accused of the crime for which he has been on the run in the last few years has been that of a man determined to undermine the law in every way possible. He is and has always been a fugitive with more than enough access to the powers that be.
For a man who went under the security radar by keeping a low profile even when no serious effort was being made to bring him to justice by the state, Maina had showed all the signs that he would bolt if he ever had the opportunity.
This ought to have been adequate warning to anyone, more so a law-maker in the mould of Ali Ndume, not to have taken the risk he took standing surety for him.
Perhaps convinced of the lawlessness that pervades Nigeria and being a legislator, Ndume saw himself as the law itself and reckoned nothing could or would happen to him. After all, nothing happened to Enyinnaya Abaribe, another senator of the Nigerian state who stood surety for would-be secessionist and now fugitive, Nnamdi Kanu. Kanu had escaped from the country and failed to return to the courts after he was granted bail following his incarceration for his activities as leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra.
In typical Nigerian style, the issue of whether Ndume should forfeit his property and be made to answer for Maina’s escape has been made a political matter. His supporters, apparently in the spirit of ‘federalism’ and ‘equity’, are demanding that Abaribe be detained just like Ndume. The demand for Abaribe’s arrest is not so much about justice as it is about ensuring that the senator shares in the liability brought on him by his Igbo compatriot, Nnamdi Kanu.
The saga of Maina’s criminal heist of pensioners’ funds while serving as the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, and his trial after his escape to the United Arab Emirate and arrest after returning home to take a higher position, is a narrative that smacks of official complicity. It stinks to the heavens. There is no way some people in government could claim ignorance of Maina’s crime and the hide and seek game he has since set off.
Remember that this same Maina had been given security cover and allowed to move freely in and outside the country all through the time the Nigerian security establishment pretended to be looking for him. His armed guards were once poised for a showdown, a real fire fight, with operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that sought to arrest him on a busy street.
The role of Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in frustrating his arrest before now is yet to be fully explained. Not even President Muhammadu Buhari and his late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, are free of suspicion going by the account of Winifred Oyo-Ita, the ousted Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. She had warned both Kyari and the President, she claimed, against recalling Maina back to the civil service.
Her advice fell on deaf ears. It was the open disagreement between her and the late Abba Kyari that first confirmed to Nigerians the possible role of senior government officials in and link to the attempt to spring Maina from any kind of arrest or accounting for his illegal activities concerning the pension funds of Nigerians.
Maina so dug into and helped himself to other peoples’ pension savings that he turned his alleged criminal pilfering into a family business by enrolling members of his nuclear and extended families into opening fictitious bank accounts. Through these, he siphoned funds of pensioners. When the bubble started busting Maina was traced to and arrested in a hotel where his son, Faisal, also now on the run, pulled a gun on security operatives in a bid to forestall the arrest of his father.
Umar Dangaladima, the Federal legislator, representing Kaura-Namoda, who is responsible for the N60 million bail bond on Faisal now has to show Justice Okon Abang, the trial judge, why he should not be made liable. The last time he appeared in court Maina had feigned ill-health and complained that he was unsettled psychologically by the eyes of Justice Abang which bore into him and leaving him menaced.
Seated as if glued to the wheelchair in which he appeared in court with a medical report seeking his release on health ground, Maina must have concluded Nigerians were not convinced of his courtroom drama. Being the coward he was, he was not ready to take the fall for anyone. It was probably during that last courtroom session that Maina concluded he was best served to take to his heels and leaving whoever was foolish enough to stand surety for him to face the music of his crime.
Or could it be that those who chose to stand surety for the Mainas are true Nigerians who knew full well that nothing would come out of the prosecution of the former director of Human Resources at the Ministry of the Interior? Maina must face justice!