The probe into the recall of former head of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service took several interesting turns at the House of Representatives on Thursday as more revelations emerged from parties privy to the issue.
The revelations by the different officials highlighted two things: poor coordination among various agencies and officials, and complicity in the scandal by others.
The Head of Service of the federation, HoS, Winifred Oyo-Ita; Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Services, Mohammed Babangede; and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, were some of those quizzed at the resumption of the hearing chaired by Aliyu Madaki.
The House of Representatives started the investigative hearing into the disappearance, reappearance, reinstatement and promotion of Mr. Maina on Thursday, November 23.
At the first sitting, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Malami, denied initiating and authorising Maina’s return.
But the account of the HoS and that of the Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Joseph Akande, countered Mr. Malami’s claim.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita stated that she received a series of letters from the office of the Attorney General demanding the reinstatement of Mr. Maina while Mr. Akande too said that at least three letters on the issue emanated from the office of the AGF.
In other words, either the AGF was lying or the HoS and Mr. Akande were.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier investigations had also shown the AGF’s complicity in the controversial recall of Mr. Maina who is still wanted by the EFCC.
Also at the sitting, counsel to Mr. Maina, Mohammed Katu, said his client was still receiving salaries despite the report that he had been dismissed from service.
Maina received no salary – Adeosun, Idris
But Mr. Katu’s claim was dismissed by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, on Thursday.
The duo said Mr. Maina was last paid in February 2013.
“From my findings, the last salary Maina received was in February 2013. From March 2013, he was removed from payroll,” Mr. Idris said.
“I made a test run, giving different combinations of his names but found nothing. I don’t know where he has been getting salaries from.”
Affirming this, Mrs. Adeosun said several searches were made in the payroll and nothing was found.
“We do not have his biometric data. I can state that he is not receiving salary from the federal government,” she said.
Court ordered my client be paid his salary arrears – Katu
When members of the panel sought reaction of Mr. Katu, he claimed he had evidences of the payment. He, however, couldn’t produce the evidence when asked to do so.
He went ahead to claim that two different court judgement ordered Mr. Maina’s reinstatement and payment of his salary arrears.
“The issue of his dismissal was first was because of the Senate committee warrant of arrest. That warrant of arrest necessitate going to court and the court gave a judgement. In that judgement they set aside the query that led to his dismissal. Haven set aside the query that led to his dismissal, the poser is what should be his status? He has been reinstated to his earlier position.
He explained that though the HoS and FCSC were not parties to the case at the High Court, the inclusion of the Attorney General, who is in charge of prosecuting and defending cases on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, made them parties.
“In the Industrial Court matter, both parties agree to do what we call out of court settlement and it was resolved that Maina will be reinstated and his emoluments will go to him and Maina on his own part agreed not to pursue his N2.1 million claim by way of damages. The cumulative effect of all these things is that there was a judgement and how was it brought to effect? It was brought to effect by reinstating him and by reinstating him what does that mean? It means he should be taken back to the status he ought to have been if he had not been dismissed and what is that status? His salaries and arrears should be calculated and be paid to him.”
Mr. Katu’s claim of court-ordered reinstatement had been faulted by lawyers who argued that he could not extend the ruling on Senate arrest warrant to include order for reinstatement as they were separate issues.
Maina Never Returned Any Asset To EFCC – Magu
The dramatic revelations continued with the account of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, who stated emphatically that Mr. Maina did not hand over any asset to the commission.
But this is against the claim of a Senate ad-hoc committee constituted to investigate the issue.
The Chairman of the committee, Emmanuel Paulker, had told the Senate on Thursday, November 23, that Mr. Maina had recovered 222 properties from pension suspects in Abuja and other major cities across the country.
This is also in contradiction to Mr Maina’s claim of helping the government to recover N1.3 trillion through the AGF, though he did not mention how and where the fund was remitted.
Mr. Magu, while listing out properties belonging to Mr. Maina, claimed that the EFCC’s knowledge of the said properties was obtained by the commission, stressing that Mr. Maina has not returned any asset.
He further challenged Mr. Maina to provide evidence of submission of asset if he continues to claim to have returned any.
He challenged anyone with a contradictory evidence to tender it publicly.
“If Maina or any government official witnessed the sharing of any recovered pension assets by any official of the EFCC, they should be willing to name the official, the assets involved; when and where the sharing took place.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are no 222 properties anywhere that were shared by anybody. The EFCC did not receive a single property from Abdulrasheed Maina,” Mr. Magu said.
He added that all the pension fraud asset that are in the recovered assets inventory of the commission, ”were products of independent investigation by the EFCC.”
Oyo-Ita exonerates self
In her explanation, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, said Mr. Maina, was reinstated into the civil service without a directive from her office.
“For the permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, to claim that the directive to reinstate Maina came from my office is limited in facts,” Mrs. Oyo-Ita said, reacting to the submission by Mr. Magaji.
““The remarks by Mr. Magaji that he acted based on directives of the Head of Service, to put it mildly, is not quite correct,” she said.
“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 of Interior did not wait to get a posting instruction before they went ahead and reinstated Maina and assigned him duties.
“So this is to completely discountenance the attempt by the Permanent Secretary that they acted on an issue in an illegal manner while trying to make claims that there was a legality from my office”, she added.
She noted that the Ministry of Interior only acted on an advanced copy of the reinstatement letter, which was only meant for information purposes only.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita further insisted that Mr. Maina, as far as she was concerned, has not been reinstated into the civil service.
“A letter of reinstatement was never given to him from my office,” she said.
Maina has not been travelling through the borders – immigration
The account of the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Services, Mohammed Babangede, left more to be desired after he claimed Mr. Maina has three official passports and has not been travelling through borders if he has been travelling at all.
“We have checked our records and we have not seen a single name of Maina pass through our airports since 2013 when he was blocked; so the record available to us shows that Maina has not been travelling,” he started.
“If he has been travelling, then it means he has not been travelling through an airport we can see. By law, if you pass through a border you are entitled to report to an immigration officer. So if Maina has been travelling from 2013 till date, we don’t know. If he has been passing through borders he has not reported to an immigration officer. As far as we are concerned, Maina has not been travelling since 2013.”
He also said Mr. Maina has three passports and a dual citizenship.
“We knew about Maina from 27 September 2013 when he was leaving the country and he was stopped at the Murtala Mohammed international airport because of the letter from EFCC.
“Prior to that time, Maina was never in our stop list. He has been a frequent traveller across airports. He has 3 passports. An official passport which has expired and has not being renewed; a standard passport which is currently valid till 2018 and an American passport.
”So in an addition to being a citizen of Nigeria, he is also a citizen of America. He has a valid U.S. passport which will be expiring on 26 August 2022.”
The immigration, NIS, chief also explained that at some point, Mr. Maina’s name was removed from the stop list.
“On December 1st 2015 the EFCC gave us a letter directing us to remove his name from the stop list, which we removed. But when the case of Maina started and a directive was given by the president that he should be probed, we blocked his name again in our stop list. We blocked all his passports which means he cannot reissue his passport any longer and he cannot pass through our recognised borders.”
The EFCC chief had no chance to explain why the December 2015 letter was written despite Mr. Maina still being wanted by his agency. Despite the NIS removal from the stop list, however, the agency still clarified that it had no record of Maina passing through any of the nation’s borders and airports since 2013.
I advised Malami to meet with Maina – Daura
The Director General of the State Security Services, Lawal Daura, in his account confirmed that the AGF met with Mr. Maina based on his advice.
“The attorney general of the federation sometime in 2016 or 2015 (can’t remember the exact day) because it was not through a formal document, placed a call to me when he was outside the country and requested me on a request he got through a source that Maina wanted to meet him.”
“He wanted me to advise him whether to agree to see Maina or not in that foreign country.”
“I responded to the attorney general that he should accept to see Maina but he should not see him alone”
“He should see him with a third party,” Mr. Daura said.
This account confirms Mr. Maina’s comment in a video recently aired by Channels TV that he met with the minister. Mr. Maina said the meeting was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari but the SSS chief was mum on this part.
It also confirms that despite the immigration service not having any records, Mr. Maina did slip out of Nigeria. He was largely based in Dubai where the meeting with the AGF occurred.
On the accusation of the SSS shielding Mr. Maina, Mr. Daura said Mr. Maina had approached the service with a letter alleging threat to his life and therefore requested for protection.
He said Mr. Maina wrote his agency alleging threat to his life.
“The letter was scrutinised and fears expressed by Maina were also to a large extent established.”
He said the service decided to look into the matter so as to protect Mr. Maina.
“Because of the right to life which is guaranteed by our constitution, universally recognised, Maina’s case was directed to be looked into so as not to allow his life to be in jeopardy.”
Mr. Daura’s confirmation that his agency provides security for Mr. Maina, also shows that while the appropriate agency of government, NIS, was not aware Mr. Maina was even out of the country, the SSS not only knew he was out but also knew when he returned and probably how.
Mr. Daura, however, said no government agency, including the EFCC, wrote to the SSS, notifying it that Mr. Maina was wanted.
He added that the service has nothing to do with the reinstatement of Mr. Maina and subsequent promotion.