How Maina came to be reinstated into the civil service remains a puzzle to be solved and the House of Representatives is finding a way around it. KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL writes on the ongoing investigation.
As the controversy trailing the reinstatement of the former chairman of the of Presidential Task Force on Pensions Regime, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service lingers, the House of Representatives is probing to ascertain government officials responsible for his reabsorption.
Leadership recalls that Maina was dismissed from service in February, 2013 based on allegation of abuse of office and handling of the pension funds. However, in September, 2017 following a letter purportedly from the AGF, he was reinstated and reportedly promoted to a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Interior.
To this end, the House on October 24, resolved to investigate the resurfacing, reinstatement and consequent promotion of Maina as an acting director in the Ministry of Interior despite being indicted for mismanaging over N100 billion pension fund.
The hearing which was held at the instance of the Madaki Ali-led ad hoc committee grilled key officials who were invited to explain their various roles in the saga. They are: The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Shehu Malami, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita; Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) to mention a few. However, the Maina was absent from the hearing and his whereabout remains unknown.
One of the highlights of the hearing which was characterized by buck-passing and blatant self-exoneration from a saga that has called the integrity of the present administration to question, is the testimony of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who earlier reports have it is the master-mind of Maina’s reinstatement no thanks to a letter that allegedly emanated from his office.
Malami vehemently disowned the letter, insisting that it never came from his office. But he acknowledged receipt of two letters calling for Maina’s reinstatement for which work is yet to be concluded upon.
According to him, the purported letter dated February 21, 2017 made available by the committee couldn’t have genuinely emanated from the Attorney General. The letter dated October 5, 2017 was never signed off. On that, I arrive at an irresistible conclusion that Maina’s request for the reinstatement was an ongoing process in the Office of the Attorney General as at October 5, 2017.
“It is against the background of the unfinished process relating to the demand or request for the SA to convince the Attorney-General as to how the effect of judgement provided by Maina could have a coessential effect on reinstatement which was not developed and presented”.
The AGF also maintained that the legal opinion expressed by his office relating to the request for the reinstatement of Maina was free of any strings attached adding that following receipt of the initial memo seeking Maina’s re-instatement on April 23, 2017 for which he sought clarification, he received no further correspondence until Oct 5 when a second letter came directing that Maina be re-instated. He said that he asked that the letter be kept in view as such, the controversial letter could not have come from him. “My responsibility is about action over a request for justice by Ministries, Departments, Agencies and individuals.
“There was correspondence from Maina seeking the intervention of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for his reinstatement into the public service. Maina made available court processes, judgements and orders for the consideration of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“Judgement and orders were generally obtained between 2013 and 2014 before I was appointed the Attorney-General and was not appealed. However, as at Oct. 5, 2017, Maina’s issue which has been confirmed by subsequent correspondence in my file was indeed a work-in-progress. So, the letter giving clear directives could not have genuinely emanated from my office’’, he said.
Despite the defense, another point of interest was the AGF’s meeting with Maina last year. He had informed that he met the fugitive in the United Arab Emirate in January 2016 following a request by the latter to meet but swiftly added that the meeting led to the recovery of N2 billion.
“I have no personal interest in Maina’s case. I met him for the first time in January 2016 in UAE and the meeting happened after I secured objection from security agencies. I considered the suggestions made by them and intimated the security adviser on Maina’s request. At the end of the day, I met with him and subsequently made a submission that was responsible for the recovery of N2bn from Kigo. If I had any vested interest, I wouldn’t have issued a letter for the recovery of funds from Maina.
“Beside information in the public domain over the case, I had no prior knowledge neither was the case handed over to me formally upon my resumption as the AGF. This case was there even before president Buhari assumed office. I had no prior dealing in the case”, he stated.
But regardless of this noble gesture (recovery of N2bn), it is safe to say that it is a chink in his armor which some analysts have latched to berate him.
According to Jiti Ogunye, a lawyer who spoke on channels television at the weekend posited that as the Attorney-General of the federation, Malami should not have meet with Maina under no circumstance. “What he should have done was alert the authorities to get him arrested instead of meeting with him. You can’t be the Attorney-General and be meeting with a fugitive.
Similarly, political analyst Jafez Ikenna maintains that the Attorney-General is economical with the truth concerning his role in Maina’s return stressing that the timing of his meeting with Maina and his return was too coincidental. “The AGF is not telling us the truth concerning his involvement in this matter. He can’t claim that the letter did not come from his office. One question we should be asking is how come the process of Maina’s return and eventual reinstatement started after that meeting? Why was it important for both of them to meet? These are some of the questions that he needs to respond to”.
Also, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Human right activist, Femi Falana, took a swipe at him saying “I could not believe that the chief law officer of the country could travel all the way to Dubai to meet a fugitive from the law. When challenged by the House Committee to justify the legal advice that he gave to the Federal Government for the recall and reinstatement of the fugitive, he turned around to deny one of the three letters written to the Federal Civil Service Commission on the matter.
“…he had to do that as he could not produce the judgment that informed his decision to recommend the reinstatement of Maina. Of course, the judgment does not exist”, Falana stated.
Malami who took a swipe at the media for campaign of calumny against him and any one working to expose corruption in pension, asserted that the issue at hand was a big fraud perpetrated by a syndicate which he said involved top civil servants and some members of the National Assembly, allegedly.
During her testimony, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, countered the Malami’s claims that the purported letter did not emanate from his office insisting that her office She added that her office started receiving letters from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice over the Maina case early in the year and also received copy of the letter from the OAGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission directing that Maina be reinstated.
According to her, any officer who is newly employed or recalled into office usually has to get a nod from the office of the HOCS, however, that was not the case with Maina. “Maina was dismissed in 2013 from the civil service because he absconded. Suddenly, early in the year, we started receiving letters from the Attorney general addressed to the Federal Civil Service Commission and copied to my office directing that Maina be reinstated.
“The Federal Civil Service Commission set up a committee to review the case and took a decision that he be reinstated and sent a letter to that effect to my office accordingly. However, I held on to the letter because I needed clarification, but he ultimately was absolved into the ministry of interior. I still have the original letter with me and Maina has no right to resume without an official letter from my office to that effect”, she noted.
Oyo-Ita also stated that the letter reinstating Maina was not endorsed by her and the letter of posting was not delivered to him noting that the ministry acted in error as it did not wait to get posting directives from the Head of Civil Service before going ahead to act on an advance copy issued by the FCSC thus, Maina was not reinstated into the service. “The Federal Civil Service Commission considered the administrative aspect of the case which is punishable by dismissal and the letter reinstating Maina has not been delivered. Therefore, he stands dismissed and was never reinstated into the service,’’ she asserted.
On his part, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzua, said that the office of the minister was neither involved in the dismissal of Maina in 2013 nor his reinstatement in 2017. “After checks, I discovered that my predecessor was not involved in the dismissal or disciplinary issue in 2013, and in 2017, the office of the minister was not involved”.
Another notable part of probe was the testimony of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, who back-pedaled on his position that the Head of Service was part of the decision to reinstate of Mr. Maina to take responsibility for the re-appointment of the ex-pension boss after the HOS tore his submission to shreds.
“The only body statutorily empowered to reinstate anybody is the Federal Civil Service Commission and it must pass through the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation”. However, when asked if there was a minute from the Head of Service on the letter from the FCSC to him instructing Maina’s reinstatement, Magaji responded: “If a letter was written in respect of an officer to the Head of Service and that person decided to hold on to it, it doesn’t mean that the reinstatement had not been communicated.
Oyo-Ita however responded saying: “For the Permanent Secretary to claim that the directive to reinstate Maina came from my office is limited in facts; to put it mildly, it is not quite correct. There is a process of conveyance of reinstatement instructions. The Federal Civil Service Commission would send a letter to the Head of Service and also send another letter to the beneficiary of that reinstatement under the flying seal of the Head of Service.
“The Ministry acted in an illegal manner, I didn’t sign the letter of Maina’s reinstatement. The letter was never given to Maina, it’s still in my possession. The ministry acted on a copy given to them; not from me.
“The Ministry of Interior did not wait to get a posting instruction before they went ahead and reinstated Maina and assigned him duties. Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina as far as my office is concerned and going by the rules of the civil service, remains dismissed from the civil service”, Oyo-Ita reiterated.
Upon hearing this, Magaji conceded saying: “The service is an institution; whatever happened there, I am the head of administration and I will take responsibility.
“Whatever the Interior Ministry has done wrongly in accordance with the way administrative matter was handled in this matter, I take full responsibility for it all as the permanent secretary”, Magaji said.
Also, reports that Maina was receiving salaries was put to rest as the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, informed the committee that Maina was no longer on the payroll of the federal government adding that his salary was stopped in March 2013. “We use two platforms in the payment of salaries, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, GIFMIS. We have checked and have no record or evidence from both platforms that salary was paid to Maina since March 2013. We have no biometric data of Maina and he is not a staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance or its agencies”.
Similarly, the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris noted that Maina was removed from the federal government’s payroll in March 2013. “From our records, Maina last received salary from the Federal Government in February 2013. From March 2013, Maina was removed from the government’s payroll. If indeed, he was paid as he claimed, he should produce evidence such as pay slips”.
Earlier, counsel to Maina, Muhammadu Katu, who had earlier appealed to the committee to prevail on security agencies not to arrest his client, assuring that he would appear in person before the committee to testify, insisted that his client was never sacked and still received salary from the FG. According to him, “assignments were still being given to him to execute for the Federal Government even as at last month”.
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu revealed that a former deputy director in the commission, Kabiru Shehu, removed Maina’s name from the wanted list.
Magu revealed that Maina operated six bank accounts with cash of N2.7billion while another account belonging to his son had a total of N1.5billion. He also bought a property in Jabi in Abuja for the sum of 200million dollars cash, the EFCC boss claimed.
He also dismissed assertions by Maina that the anti-graft commission is in custody of the funds and properties recovered by the pension task team. “Maina didn’t hand over any assets to the commission, if he has done so let him come and prove it. For the avoidance of doubt, there are no 222 properties was shared by anybody. All the pension fraud asset that are in the recovered assets inventory of the commission are products of independent investigation by the EFCC”, he added.
Explaining the role of the Department of State Service (DSS), its Director General, Maman Daura said that while Maina was said to have been declared wanted, his name was not placed on a watch list and added that Maina subsequently requested for protection and was granted by the DSS.
While the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede, posited that Mr. Maina had not been traveling in and out of the country even as a fugitive from the law. “We have traced Maina traveling log. We have not seen him travelled since 2013. As far as we’re concerned, Maina has not been traveling since 2013.”
In adjourning, the chairman of the committee, Hon. Ali Madaki tasked the AGF to hasten up ongoing investigation into the authorship of the letter directing Maina’s reinstatement based on his information that he had set up a panel of enquiry headed by the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry to investigate issues revolving around the letter.
As the House of Representatives awaits the outcome of the investigation into the letter by the AGF to conclude its probe, Nigerians are keen on the revelation of the person behind the mask as well as whether or not, the rule of law will be obeyed.