- Documents reveal real reasons EFCC declared ex-PRTT boss wanted
By Onyedika Agbedo
Despite the recent claim by the family of the embattled former Chairman of the presidential Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, that a cabal has been behind his travails, fresh facts have emerged detailing how he allegedly used his position to defraud Nigerian pensioners and corruptly enrich himself.
Sunday Sun investigations also showed that the Presidency, which inherited the pension fund scandal on assumption of office in May 2015, had been making efforts to bring Maina and his accomplices to book before his secret return and reinstatement into the civil service.
Thus, the Presidency was taken aback with Maina’s purported reinstatement, which attracted widespread public opprobrium, resulting in President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that he should be immediately dismissed from service.
Findings showed that the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had in a letter to the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) dated July 1, 2016 with reference number DPPA/PRTT/192/16 appealed to the Commission to assist the government in intelligence gathering, tracing and recovery of funds allegedly siphoned by Maina and his co-accused.
The EFCC, in its response dated August 1, 2016 and titled “Re: Abdulrasheed A. Maina Reform Task Team Appeal: Appeal for Intervention to Assist Government in Intelligence Gathering in Various Fields and Funds Tracing, Recovery, Blocking Leakages in Government Expenditure and Other Such Services Both Within and Without”, which Sunday Sun obtained in confidence, revealed that Maina and his cohorts allegedly stole and laundered pension fund to the tune of N14, 374,236,846.09.
“Investigation revealed that Abdulrasheed Maina was deeply involved in stealing the same pension funds he was tasked with protecting by using staff under him and their associated persons and “Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) contractors” to receive payment for non-existing biometric enrolment contracts, inflated contracts and “collective allowances” among other questionable payments worth hundreds of millions of naira which were remitted in cash to him. It was also discovered that Maina was involved in a complex web of money laundering involving him, his family members, corporate entities and his account officers,” the letter explained.
The letter, which was signed by the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, showed that the PRTT under Maina spent the sum of N5, 761,150,608.44 on fictitious contracts; N829, 902,260.40 on ghost workers; N1, 365,821,942.91 on collective allowances; N4, 192,825,310.99 on payment to States Pension Boards and others; N2, 290,593,322.35 on National Union of Pensioners; and N253, 390,300 on Association of Federal Public Service Retirees (AFPSR).
The EFCC further stated in the letter that its investigation established the involvement of former Head of Service of the Federation (HCSF), Stephen Oronsaye; Dr. Sani Shuaibu Teidi, Mrs Phina Ukamaka Chidi, Aliyu Bello, Olanipekun Emmanuel, Abdul Mohammed, Garba Tahir and M.K. Ahmed, who were all federal civil servants in the scam.
The commission alleged that the duo of Oronsaye and Maina conspired amongst themselves to come up with a fraudulent nationwide biometric enrollment exercise for pensioners on Federal Government payroll, noting that they engaged the services of some individuals to assist them in looting pension funds.
The letter stated that in the course of investigations, one Mr Afe introduced Innovative Solutions to the OHCSF where they were awarded the contract of biometric data capture.
“The initial contract sum was N63 million as indicated in the award letter which was paid to Innovative Solution. However, Innovative Solution requested for a contract extension of the sum of N136 million, which brings the total contract to N199 million. From the analysis of Innovative Solution’s bank statement, it was discovered that the total sum of N224.85 million was fraudulently paid to them showing an excess payment of N25 million against N199 million. Afe confessed that the contract sum was inflated at the instance of Maina and the inflated sum delivered to him,” the EFCC alleged.
The commission further alleged that one Ikaziboh was discovered to have transferred the sum of N166.5 million from Innovative Solution’s account to Fredrick Hamilton Ltd, a company owned by the said Afe.
It added: “A transfer of N35 million was discovered from Innovative Solution to Uptrach Communication Ltd after which Ikaziboh confirmed the payment as amount paid to that company that actually executed the contract of the biometric exercise. The said Afe was also discovered to have been paid the sum of N119.4 million as biometric enrollment exercise through his company Fredrick Hamilton. Investigation revealed that the company has no contract award letter from the OHCSF nor did it carry out any contract.”
It further alleged that including the amount remitted to Fredrick Hamilton from Innovative Solution, Fredrick Hamilton Ltd was discovered to have been fraudulently credited with the total sum of N289.05 million out of which the said Afe confessed to have remitted over N250 million to Maina. It said that Afe admitted to have benefited N35 million only and promised to refund same.
“Afe confessed that he issued blank cheques to Maina which he used for making the withdrawals and sometimes he went with Maina to the bank to make the withdrawals and hand them over to him instantly. This has been confirmed by Fredrick Hamilton’s account officer. Also, one Adesokan, a storekeeper attached to the PRTT confessed that the total sum of N147, 765,400.00 fraudulently paid through various banks from the OHCSF to three different companies, namely Fatidek Ventures, Jolance and Oblando Nigeria Ltd for fictitious biometric contract were collected cash by him and delivered same to Maina through one Igwe, Maina’s confidential secretary,” the commission alleged.
It also alleged that the total sum of N153, 146,719.00 fraudulently paid to Xangee Technologies Ltd from OHCSF for fictitious biometric contract was transferred to a Bureau de Change, converted to U.S. dollars and then diverted to Maina through his relative, one Khalid Ali Biu.
“It is imperative to note that the owner of Xangee Technologies Ltd, one Mazangari, an IT consultant engaged by Maina, has also been charged to court by the commission on this amount as well as other fraudulent payments received from the OHCSF on Maina’s instruction,” it noted.
According to the EFCC, “one Chinwe, one of Maina’s secretarial staff, received the sum of over N56 million in the name of collective allowances, servicing of office equipment and biometric enrolment, while her company received the total sum of N16.7 million as biometric enrolment. She confessed to have withdrawn the funds in cash and handed over same to one Abdulkarim as instructed by Maina for onward delivery to him. The said Abdulkarim, who is also a member of the Task Team was discovered to have been fraudulently paid the sum total of N80, 108,640.00 as bogus collective allowances on the instruction of Maina.”
The Commission further accused Maina of fictitious ownership and operation of six bank accounts including Cluster Logistics, Drew Investment and Construction Ltd, Kongolo Dynamics Cleaning Ltd, Dr. Abdullahi A. Faizal, Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu and Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, which on analysis revealed a turnover of more than N2.7 billion.
It added: “All efforts to get Maina to report for an interview were unsuccessful. He did not honour the letter of invitation sent to him. Visits to his known address were also in vain. It was gathered that Maina was no longer living in the country but had relocated, including his family members to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Consequently, the commission sought an arrest warrant against him and he was also declared wanted. The commission also sought the assistance of INTERPOL with the view of arresting Maina to come and answer charges brought against him.”
Expectedly, both the EFCC and INTERPOL have declared Maina wanted again. ““In fact, the INTERPOL just put Maina on their wanted list now. A fresh warrant has been issued for his re-arrest,” said Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, last Thursday.
But Maina has absolved himself of the allegations against him, claiming that he was being hunted for his uprightness while in office. In his statement, which has been trending in the social media of late, he maintained that instead of embezzling pension fund as alleged, he helped the government to recover the sum of N282 million diverted fund.
Meanwhile, as the Mainagate unfolds, there are fresh concerns among Nigerians regarding government’s handling of pension funds fraud cases that rocked the country between 2011 and 2015. Although the EFCC revealed in the letter that it had filed 12 cases against 19 natural suspects and 18 corporate entities involved in pension funds fraud at the Federal High Court Abuja and FCT High Court, and had also secured the conviction of two individuals, many Nigerians fear that other suspects in the scam may evade justice in the end, drawing from the recent experience with Maina.
A public affairs analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo, told Sunday Sun that even if Maina surrenders to the EFCC and is arraigned, he might walk out the court a free man given the fact that even those that had been arraigned were still walking the streets free.
“Many people were apprehended for defrauding pensioners of their money both at the federal and levels. But the heart-rending nature of our criminal justice system presume people to be innocent until a competent court of law finds them guilty even if someone is caught in the act, particularly if it is criminal case. And usually where the offence is bailable, they are granted bail. It is then that you see the suspects’ counsel coming up with all manners of filibustering measures against the prosecution. The tendency is that the so-called suspects have enriched themselves in such a way that they can hire very senior lawyers who can put in all manners of technicalities to frustrate their prosecution. In fact, in some instances they are able to frustrate their investigation and arrest. One would have thought that with the contributory pension scheme, which the Obasanjo administration introduced after setting up a committee to study the pension scheme of other countries, the issue of pension funds fraud would be over. That was the problem the Maina task force was supposed to resolve. According to Maina himself, the task force helped the Federal Government to recover about N282 billion. But you find out that none of the people from whom all these monies were recovered has been jailed,” Ojo said.
He added: “Before the indictment of Maina himself, he actually did a number of finger pointing, accusing highly placed people in the society of soiling their hands in the pension fund. According to him, they even sent assassins after him. So, what I’m saying invariably is that when you have very high net worth individuals involved in crimes like that, it is usually very challenging. And the problem here particularly is that government agencies are working at cross-purposes. They are not having shared idea, shared information and shared vision. Let me explain further. Maina is wanted by the EFCC; his name was sent to INTERPOL, asking them to arrest him if they see him. He was said to have fled the country but the same person strolled back into the country four months ago and was going about with armed escort from the DSS and Police. The EFCC was still looking for him; but the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was the one that engineered the letter of his reinstatement under the guise that there was a court order that has nullified his warrant of arrest. What does all these tell you?”
Also speaking in the same vein, former presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party (CPP) Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Chief Maxi Okwu, a lawyer, opined that the country had not been securing convictions against suspected corrupt officials because the AGF and EFCC were not working in harmony.
“The AGF and the EFCC are not working together. It was the AGF that called back Maina based on his jaundiced legal opinion, in connivance with the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, as reported by the media. Something is wrong with this anti-corruption effort.
“I have had occasions to ask what is the APC position paper on the war against corruption. Even the President, where is his blueprint to fight corruption. Buhari cannot fight corruption alone; it’s not possible. The APC as a political party is supposed to have a policy on anti-corruption, which binds the National Assembly led by the party, the governors and all appointees of the party. There should be a common strand setting minimum party standard on anti-corruption. So, Buhari is on his own as far as the issue of anti-corruption is concerned and there is no way he can do it. The people of Nigeria must own it.
“Meanwhile, there is a trending audio statement in the social media where Maina is defending himself. He made very starling revelations there, which I think should be investigated,” Okwu said.
From the foregoing, it’s clear that the issue of the pension fund scandal is not one that would end soon. With the fresh efforts being made by the government to fish out Maina from hiding and bring him to justice, Nigerians would definitely hear more about the saga in the days ahead.