EFCC seals sacked pension task force chair’s 6 houses in Kaduna
NASS order probe, lists AGF’s sins
From Romanus Ugwu, Fred Itua and Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
There is no respite for the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, sealed off six of his multimillion-naira mansions in Kaduna, barely 24 hours after his reinstatement was voided by President Muhammadu Buhari.
To compound Maina’s trouble, the Presidency, in a series of tweets, said his dismissal followed due process, even as both chambers of the National Assembly constituted separate committees to probe the circumstances surrounding his return to the country and reengagement in the civil service as a director.
While mandating the president to bring those behind the messy saga to book, the Senate, at plenary, specifically called out the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau.
Coming under Order 42 and 52, Isah Hamman Misau, wondered why a government which claims to be fighting corruption, would recall a fugitive declared wanted by the anti-graft agency and the police.
Misau said: “Going by newspaper publications, somebody wanted by the EFCC, left the country for so many years. He was dismissed from the service. He was out for a long time, but (was) smuggled into the service. He left the country as an assistant director. Today, he is a director.
“We even heard that he goes about with police escort. I wonder how a government that claims to be fighting corruption will be involved in a matter like this. This is a big embarrassment for this country. The people around the president are not helping matters. It appears that the president is the only one talking about corruption. Other people around him are protecting corrupt people.
“The AGF and other people were mentioned. We investigated this case in the seventh Assembly. I am calling on the Senate to investigate this case again.”
Supporting Misau, Chief Whip of the Senate, Olusola Adeyeye, called on APC members to rescue the country from those he described as agents of destabilisation, who are working to make President Buhari fail.
“I remember what happened then. It got to a point when the former president of the senate, David Mark told the former president, Goodluck Jonathan to chose between Abdulrasheed Maina and loyalty to the country. It got so bad that Maina had over 30 police officers attached to him.
“It got so bad that he was always on the front roll whenever the former president travelled. At some point, we thought that he was being protected. I remember one of us was blackmailed and called names. He was accused of taking billions as bribes. That lawmaker was cleared and he is here.
“Some principalities in power then ferried him to neighbouring countries. There is a procedure when it comes to promotion in the civil service. This is an insult on the part of civil servants who have worked so hard.
“As a member of APC, it is a sad moment. We cannot say we want to fight corruption and have this approach. Jesus Christ said it is difficult for a rich man to pass through the eyes of a needle.
“This saddens me and I am sure it saddens all of us. I am glad that following the outrage from the public, the president acted swiftly. We read in the newspapers that the rules of the civil service were bypassed.
“It appears there are people in this government who want the president to fail. Every patriot and member of APC in this house must stand out.
“(News) Papers have reported that two ministers were involved. Those ministers must be brought to justice. The president must ensure that those ministers are sacked. Corruption is not only about stealing money. Incompetence too is another form of corruption.
“I hope that this Senate will not forget its past resolutions on Maina. On it we still stand. He must be made to stand and face the law. He is not above the law. Steven Oronsaye was accused. He did not leave the country. He stayed back and cleared his name. Maina must do same,” Adeyeye said.
Also contributing to the debate, Kabiru Marafa called for a full blown investigation into circumstances that led to Maina’s reinstatement, warning that the abuse of due process must not go unchallenged.
Attai Idoko from Kogi State, accused the AGF of using his office to bypass due processes. He recalled how the AGF in the past, moved against lawmakers in an attempt to frustrate them out of office.
“We are looking at the symptoms; we are not looking at the cause. Maina is too small to go back to office. Somebody brought him back to the office. Maina is too small. He is not the issue. We should look at those who returned Maina.
“As we were told, the person who approved this thing is the AGF. The simplest thing the president could do was to terminate the appointment of Maina. …The AGF brought him back. The AGF has a history of doing things like this. The president should tell us what he will do to the AGF,” he said.
Reacting, Dino Melaye said since President Buhari was yet to implement the recommendations of some reports submitted to him, the Senate should go ahead and investigate the matter.
“There are so many committees that have been set up by the president and the resolutions of those reports may not be implemented until after rapture. Enough is enough. We cannot have this forever. This is wrong. The Senate needs to do something. We must recommend to the president that the AGF has erred in discharging the affairs of his office. If we do not check it, the AGF will plunge us into trouble,” Melaye argued.
But Tayo Alaosoadura from Ondo State disagreed with his colleagues, as he argued that since President Buhari had already set up a committee to investigate the issue, it would be irrelevant to set up another panel.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, while ruling in favour of a panel to probe the mess: “We are all very disturbed. I want the committee to work hard and bring this matter back to us. We need to investigate the breach in our security and how the anti-corruption war is going.”
The adhoc committee is chaired by the committee chairman on Public Service and Establishment, Emmanuel Paulker. Its membership included chairmen and deputies of the three other committees, namely Anti-Corruption, Judiciary and Interior.
Also to demonstrate their outrage, members of the House of Representatives constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate Maina’s disappearance, re-appearance, subsequent reinstatement and promotion to the position of a director in the ministry of Interior.
Leading the debate on the motion, Jagaba Adams Jagaba recalled that Maina was appointed as chairman of the Presidential Task Force in 2010 to check the complaint in the country’s pension system by Jonathan.
He said the Nigeria Police later accused him of mismanaging over N100 billion pension funds, just as the EFCC through its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren declared him wanted in 2015.
According to the lawmaker, the National Assembly invited Maina to appear before its committee. Rather than comply, he reportedly fled to the United Arab Emirates in 2013 to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Other lawmakers who spoke included Majority Whip, Ado Doguwa, Toby Okechukwu, Obinna Chidoka, Ossai Nicholas Ossai and Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde.
Members indicted the Police, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Customs Service and other security personnel who, they said, looked the other way while Maina moved freely around the country.
While it expressed shock, the APC urged President Buhari not to spare anybody indicted in the mess.
The APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said it was almost unbelievable that such a thing could happen.
“However, we are all delighted that President Buhari has taken very decisive punitive action against those that are involved.
“We are also delighted that he has ordered full scale investigation into the circumstances that led to this individual being reinstated to the public office. We believe, as a party, that whoever was part of this or found to be involved face appropriate consequences because it is an embarrassment to the party, government and it is unacceptable,” he said.
On whether the party would set up an independent investigation, Bolaji said no.
“Why should the party set up an independent investigation 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 have confidence that the president will do what is necessary.”
As soon as news of Maina’s reinstatement, who had earlier been declared wanted by the EFCC, went viral, President Buhari ordered his disengagement and queried the Head of Service, Mrs. Oyo-Ita. While some welcomed Buhari’s as a boost for the anti-corruption crusade, others said the sack breached the civil service rule.
But the presidency on its Twitter handle @NGRPresident, said Buhari only directed the appropriate authorities to effect the order in compliance with due process.
“Reports that due process was not folllowed in the disengagement of Mr. Maina from service are incorrect.”
Another tweet added: “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.”