• Oyo-Ita, perm sec fight over reinstatement of ex-pension panel’s chair
From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
The fetid mess raised by the controversial reinstatement of former Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, got worse yesterday, as Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Winifred Eto-Ita and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji were locked in hot verbal exchange at the resumed sitting of the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee set up to investigate the scam.
The two senior public officials sharply disagreed on the procedure and circunstance that led to Maina being readmitted into the federal civil service.
Also quizzed were the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; acting Chaiman of the Economic and Financial crimes commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Services and Mohammed Babangede among others.
Perm. Sec Magaji said he lacked power to reinstate any official of the ministry and could only act on the directives of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) on such matters. He also explained that he acted on the reinstatement letter based on the approval of the Head of Service of the Federation.
According to him, a letter from the Head of Service of the Federation directed the ministry to implement the recommendations of a Senior Staff Committee (SSC) of the ministry on the case.
“The Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) cannot direct the ministry to convene a meeting to consider dismissal or reinstatement of any senior civil servant, it’s only the Head of Service of the Federation that can make that directive, and for Maina in this case.
“It was the recommendation of that committee that was used to dismiss Maina and the same procedure employed when Maina was asked to be considered to be reinstated,” he explained.
But Oyo-Ita vehemently disagreed with Magaji, as she expressed disappointment that he claimed to have received a directive from her office for the reinstatement of Maina who is currently on the run.
She maintained that Magaji took action based on a letter from the FCSC conveying the directives of the AGF that the Ministry of Interior should within seven days convene the Senior Staff Committee meeting and send its report back to the commission through her office.
“So, it was this letter that was initiated from the AGF that we now directed the ministry of Interior accordingly to convene the Senior Staff Committee meeting.
“So, for the Permanent-Secretary to claim that the directive for the reinstatement was from my office is a bit limited on the fact of the matter,” she said.
Magaji eventually accepted to take the blame, if Maina’s reinstatement was found to be administratively wrong.
Malami had insisted that, he “kept in view” a letter presented for his signature to give legal advice that Maina return to the civil service.
Also speaking at the hearing, Adeosun said there was no evidence of Maina being paid after he was disengaged from service in 2013.
“We have looked very well and we have no biometrics of Maina, so there is no way he could have received salaries,” she said.
Her submission was corroborated by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, who testified that Maina was last paid salary in February, 2013.
According to Idris, from March 2013, Maina’s name was removed from the payroll.
“If there was any payment of salary to Maina, there should be pay slips and other documentary evidences to support the payments as claimed,” he posited.
In his submission, Magu denied that Maina handed any asset to the EFCC.
While listing out properties belonging to Maina, Magu claimed that the EFCC’s knowledge of the said properties was obtained by the commission.
He challenged anyone with a contrary 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,” he said.
He added that all the pension fraud asset that were in the recovered assets inventory of the commission were products of independent investigation by the EFCC.
In his ruling chairman of the committee urged Malami to hasten up ongoing investigation into who signed the letter directing Maina’s reinstatement.
However, Maina’s lawyer, Mohammed Katu has insisted that his reinstatement was legal.
Katu addressed the press after yesterday’s hearing stressing that his client fully resumed work in the ministry and files were minuted to him to treat.
He, however, denied saying that Maina still received salary from the Federal Government up until October.
“There is a judgment from the Federal High Court that sets aside the warrant of arrest, which led to his query and subsequent dismissal.
“So, our position is that having set aside all those queries and dismissal, it means Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina should revert back to his earlier status and what is that earlier status? The status is that before he was dismissed, he was a civil servant and being a civil servant, the question can as well be raised if he is entitled to salary, and the answer is yes, that as a federal civil servant, he is entitled to his salary.
“At one point, efforts were made to calculate his salaries from March 2013 till date. Perhaps, if not for what has happened now, they would have paid him salary in October,” Katu said.