- National Assembly to Probe Maina’s Return, Reinstatement
The two legislative bodies in the National Assembly – Senate and the House of Representatives – Tuesday constituted parallel ad hoc committees to investigate and determine the circumstances that led to the return and reinstatement into the Federal Civil Service of a fugitive and former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
This is as several lawmakers condemned the involvement of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, in Maina’s controversial promotion to Deputy Director from Assistant Director and redeployment to the Ministry of Interior.
The Senate ad hoc committee comprises the chairmen and deputy chairmen of its standing Committees on Interior, Public Service and Establishment, Anti-corruption and Judiciary.
The committee was set up following a motion of urgent public importance raised by Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi, APC) who alleged that Maina has been moving around with policemen for protection since he sneaked back into the country.
He queried how the return, recall and promotion of an indicted person was orchestrated by persons who are close to a government that claims to be fighting corruption.
“In a government where we are preaching that the right things should be done, it is a deep embarrassment for the government,” he said.
Misau recalled that Maina was indicted by a probe on pension funds administration by the Seventh Senate, resulting in his abscondment from the country after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
“How did this person come back? How is it that security men are attached to him and nobody has arrested him? Someone who is on the wanted list of the EFCC and now a director, I think it is unfortunate,” Misau said.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun, APC), contributing to the motion, said while President Muhammadu Buhari acted promptly on the matter, his order to fire Maina without due process was a breach of civil service rules.
“I am glad that the president acted promptly. Even at that, the rules of the Federal Civil Service Commission have been breached, even by the president.
“What is sure is that certain people in the executive are determined to make this president fail. APC members must ensure this president must not fail,” Adeyeye said.
The president, he added, owed Nigerians a duty to ensure that whoever was responsible for Maina’s reinstatement in the civil service is held to account.
Maina, instead of addressing the allegations of corruption levelled against him, ran out of the country, Adeyeye said.
“Not only did he return, he returned to an elevated position. It is an insult to civil servants who are doing their jobs diligently. As a member of APC, it is a sad moment. We can’t say we want to fight corruption.
“Whoever is responsible for this terrible decision must account for it. Stephen Oronsaye (former Head of Service) faced the court of the land and got exonerated. The least Maina must do is to face a similar process and that is what this Senate must support,” he added.
Other lawmakers laid into Malami for his alleged role in the scandal.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi, APC) described the AGF, who recommended Maina’s recall, as someone who has displayed “gross colossal incompetence” in the office he occupies.
Melaye said Malami had at various times abused his office, starting with the forgery of the Senate Rules case he filed against Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, which he added, was withdrawn disgracefully.
Melaye also berated Malami for instituting a suit against Senator Misau, following the accusations of corruption and nepotism he levelled against the Inspector General of Police (IG).
“The case is Isa Misau Vs. the Federal Government. How does the IG become the FG? The attorney-general is supposed to prosecute only in the public interest. How does an individual become a public interest?” Melaye queried.
Melaye added that the report of the presidency on Maina could not be relied upon, as its “implementation would be after rapture”.
Senators Aidoko Ali (Kogi, PDP) and Albert Bassey Akpan (Akwa Ibom, PDP) also blasted Malami who they noted has a penchant for writing distorted letters on electoral matters.
“He keeps writing all sorts of letters. He even wrote to INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) for them to withdraw my certificate of return.
“The issue is who brought Maina to that place. It is the AGF who has a history of writing letters all over the place. The president should tell us what he would do to the AGF. We must rise up to condemn the acts of the AGF,” Ali said.
Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo, APC) however disagreed that a committee should be set up by the Senate to investigate the matter and urged that the outcome of the president’s investigation be awaited.
“I believe we should not start mentioning names when we are not sure of what is happening. The investigation by the president will show this, then we would know what has been done wrong.
“We cannot be duplicating things all the time. If the president asked for a report on the matter why should we set up a committee?” Alasoadura argued.
But as he spoke, murmurings of “no” rented the air, indicating that his colleagues did not agree with him.
Presiding, the Senate President said the development was worrisome.
“We are very disturbed at this development. It borders on security and the fight against corruption and how we manage our public service,” Saraki said.
However, there was some mild drama when Saraki put a motion seeking to commend Buhari for “prompt action” on Maina’s sack to a voice vote.
A majority of the lawmakers voted “nay”, causing Saraki to put it to vote for the second time.
But the “nay” voices were even louder than the “ayes”. But the Senate President ruled that the “ayes” had it.
In the House of Representatives, a similar motion was passed calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately arrest and prosecute Maina to serve as a deterrent to others with corrupt tendencies.
It also approved the constitution of an ad hoc committee to investigate the resurfacing, reabsorption and subsequent elevation of Maina from the rank of Assistant Director – the position he held before he was sacked in 2013 – to Deputy Director, and recommended strong sanctions against any person or persons implicated in the scandal.
In a motion sponsored by Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba (APC, Kaduna), the House, however, commended Buhari for being proactive in directing the immediate sack of Maina from the Federal Civil Service.
Maina was declared wanted by the EFCC in 2015 after the police accused him of mismanaging over N100 billion pension funds.
The National Assembly had invited him to appear before its committee but he failed to honour the invitations on several occasions.
Instead, he fled the country to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to avoid arrest and prosecution, leading to his sack as Assistant Director in the Ministry of Interior by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The lower chamber expressed concern that Maina eventually returned from self-exile only to be posted to his former ministry and was given double promotion for Assistant Director to acting Director.
Also Tuesday, the House passed a resolution urging both federal and state governments to henceforth prioritise the payment of salaries to workers and mandated the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to appear before it and explain the utilisation of salary bailout funds to states within one week.
It also directed its Ad Hoc Committee on Bailout Funds which is yet to submit its report, to expedite action and investigate the disbursement of salary bailout funds in Kogi State and urged the federal government to intervene in the callous situations that the people of the state have found themselves.
In a motion of urgent national importance which was moved by Hon. Karimi Sunday (APC, Kogi) on the urgent need to save the souls of Kogi people, the lawmakers made reference to the recent suicide committed by a Director on Grade Level 16 in the Kogi State Civil Service Commission, Mr. Edward Soje, an indigene of the state.
He was said to have been owed his salary for 11 months and reportedly took his life because he could not meet his obligations as a husband, especially after his wife had just delivered of triplets at an Abuja hospital last week.
The lawmakers argued that the condition and situation of the deceased director was the lot of a majority of state civil servants both at the state and local government levels which the state governments have refused to address, and have opposed any effort by any authority to investigate the payment or non-payment of staff salaries.
They said the bailout funds were provided through the public finances of the federal government, stressing that the parliament has every authority to query its disbursement and utilisation.
EFCC Seals off Properties
But just as the National Assembly deliberated on Maina’s reinstatement, operatives of the EFCC Tuesday sealed off six houses in Kaduna State, allegedly belonging to the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
The properties that were sealed off included a two-storey shopping plaza located at number 2C Ibrahim Taiwo road, a one-storey duplex at Katuru road and another property at Kawo new extension, all within the Kaduna metropolis.
According to sources at the EFCC, the search for Maina’s properties in Kaduna started on Monday, adding that the commission was intensifying efforts to identify more of such properties in the city.
An official of the Kaduna office of the commission, Ibrahim Kamal, said the EFCC had identified six properties belonging to him, including two companies which were sealed off.
Confirming the action in Kaduna, EFCC Head of Media and Publicity Wilson Uwugiaren said: “The EFCC has sealed six properties allegedly owned and acquired with suspected proceeds of crime by Abdulrashid Maina.
“The properties are a two-storey commercial building located on Ibrahim Taiwo road, a bungalow located on Katuru road, and four separate properties located on the Kano road in Kawo new extension Kaduna.”
The EFCC on Monday had sealed off Maina’s properties in Abuja, including a residence purportedly valued at $2 million.
Uwugiaren also said that the commission was yet to arrest Maina, but assured Nigerians of efforts to intensify the search for him.
Uwugiaren also denied reports that the commission had accused the Department of State Services (DSS) of harbouring the fugitive director and had provided security since his return to the country from Dubai, UAE, where he had run to before his return to the country.
Though Maina was said to have been travelling between Kaduna and Abuja since his reinstatement as director in the Ministry of Interior, there were speculations that he might have been assisted by some top government officials to escape again to Dubai.
Maina’s Sack in Order
Meanwhile, the presidency said Tuesday that Maina’s dismissal followed due process.
This claim came against the backdrop of some lawyers’ insistence that Maina’s dismissal violated civil service rules.
The president on Monday had ordered Maina’s sack and queried the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, demanding a full report on the circumstances of his recall and redeployment to the Ministry of Interior.
However, in a series of tweets Tuesday on its twitter handle, @NGR President, the presidency said Buhari’s directive to appropriate authorities to effect the sack was in compliance with the rules.
The tweet read: “Reports that due process was not followed in the disengagement of Mr. Maina from service are incorrect.
“The president directed the appropriate authorities to effect the disengagement in compliance with due process.
“President Buhari will continue to ensure that due process is followed every step of the way.”
APC Demands Action
Also, weighing in on the uproar generated by Maina’s return and reinstatement in the civil service, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Tuesday joined Nigerians to express outrage over his ill-advised recall.
APC’s reaction to Maina’s reinstatement and subsequent sack by Buhari was given by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who spoke to journalists at the APC national secretariat in Abuja.
Abdullahi said: “We are all shocked like any other person. It is almost unbelievable that such a thing can happen. However we are all delighted that President Buhari has taken very decisive punitive action against those that are involved.”
He noted that the APC was delighted that the president had ordered a full-scale investigation into the circumstances that led to Maina being reinstated into public office.
“We believe as a party that whoever was part of this or found to be part of this must face appropriate consequences because it is an embarrassment to the party, government and it is unacceptable,” he added.
On the party’s position over the continued delay in acting on the earlier probe report on the corruption allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, the APC spokesman said: “I cannot comment on this because it is the same president that has taken a decisive action on this that still has the other report.
“In his wisdom, he must have a reason, and unless we know those reasons, we cannot come to conclusions that he has not acted.
“We have to be willing to admit that in his judgment, he does not have all the facts because we are not sitting in that chair. We have no doubt in our minds that the president will do what is necessary and do what is right.
“But he does not have to act because everybody wants him to act. He has to exercise the best judgment at all times.
“So if we are satisfied that he is acting in the best interest of the nation, definitely we cannot continue to insinuate that he will shield these people.
“He was the one who ordered that the investigation be carried out and he is the one who ordered that the SGF and NIA boss be removed from the office and we have not heard that they have returned to their duty posts.
“So definitely action will be taken on them. I think we should just be kind and wait for Mr. President to act on that before we come to the conclusion that he has not acted.”
Abdullahi also said that the ruling party did not see any reason to set up an independent investigation into the reinstatement saga.
“Why should the party set up an independent investigative team as if it is not our government? There is no need to set up one because it is our government.
“The president as the leader of the party is not independent of the party. We are confident that the president will do what is necessary,” he said.