President Muhammadu Buhari’s aides on Wednesday engaged loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan in fierce war of words over who was responsible for the reinstatement of the wanted ex-chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
The argument raged even as the family of the embattled Maina, also on Wednesday, said the ex-pension boss was never a fraudster but a messiah whose efforts had put smiles on the faces of pensioners in the FCT and other parts of the country.
Maina, who was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged N2bn fraud, appeared in the country last month and was reinstated into the civil service with promotion.
But following the public outcry against the reinstatement, Buhari on Monday ordered the termination of Maina’s appointment; and on Tuesday, the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission sealed off some of his houses.
Reacting to the developments, the spokesman of Maina’s family, Alhaji Aliyu Maina, told newsmen in Kaduna on Wednesday that it was the APC-led administration that facilitated Maina’s return “to come back and assist its change agenda.”
He insisted that a “cabal” was out to tarnish the image of Maina in the media, noting that the family was in possession of facts that were against the cabal, which would be of great interest to the public.
Those facts, he promised, would be disclosed to Nigerians soon.
The family spokesman said, “You must have noticed the recent attempt by some cabal to ridicule and tarnish the image of the Maina family in the social, electronic and print media, where our brother, father, and uncle has been blackmailed as a fraudster. The cabal has gone to the extent of marking our house with red paint with the inscription, ‘EFCC under investigation.’
“The entire family of Abdullahi Maina is hereby categorically stating that our son is not in any way a fraudster, rather he is a messiah who brought remarkable reforms into the Nigerian pension scheme, whose efforts saw the disappearance of pensioners roaming the streets of FCT, Abuja and other state capitals.
“It is on record that Abdulrasheed Maina’s reform put a stop to the fraudulent withdrawal of huge sums from the Nigerian Pension Board and the Nigerian Police Pension Board.
“Perhaps it is his noble efforts that made him enviable to the present administration when they came into power to convince him to come back and assist in its ‘change’ agenda.”
He also added that the family had contacted their lawyer, Messrs Mamman Nasir & Co, and instructed them to act appropriately.
“We equally know that Abdulrasheed Maina is in possession of so many facts that is against the cabal and interesting to the Nigerian populace, which he will disclose soonest. One must ask whether it is an offence for somebody to serve his father land faithfully,” he said.
Jonathan’s loyalists reinstated Maina –Presidency
But the Presidency on Wednesday alleged that some influential government officials loyal to the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan were responsible for the reinstatement of Maina into the service.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the allegation in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu was reacting to a statement by the Peoples Democratic Party on the matter.
He said, “Some influential officials loyal to the previous government may have been the invisible hand in the latest scandal that saw the return of Maina to the public service, despite being on the EFCC’s wanted list.
“Everything will be uncovered in due course. This just goes to show us the scale of corruption that this government is fighting. And, as we can all see, corruption keeps fighting back viciously.”
Shehu described Maina as one of the monsters created by the former PDP government, and who are still rearing their ugly heads long after the party was defeated in the 2015 elections.
“Over and over again, President Buhari’s government has pointed out that the administration’s greatest problem is the mess left behind by the previous government. Maina is just one more example,” he added.
Referring to records from the investigations that led to the disgrace of the former pension boss and his being declared wanted by the EFCC, Shehu noted that Maina was not the only top member of the former government involved in the multibillion naira pension scandal.
“Top officials in the PDP government, from sectoral heads to those charged with responsibility for law and order, received some of these billions of naira from Maina.
“We have all the transaction records and these are matters that the EFCC has been pursuing to ensure that they all have their day in court,” he said.
The PDP had in a statement said it was not surprised that the present administration could reinstate Maina, describing them as birds of a feather.
The party had said, “It is in the light of this that the PDP wishes to state that we are not too shocked at the steps taken by the administration of the All Progressives Congress in reinstating a supposed criminal and fugitive, Abdulrasheed Maina to office instead of getting him arrested. Birds of a feather flock together.”
Maina is toxic element from PDP, says APC
In a related development, the All Progressives Congress on Wednesday described Maina as one of the toxic elements left behind by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, made the claim in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.
He was reacting to comments credited to the PDP governors. The governors had in a statement condemned the spate of scandals rocking the APC-led administration. They likened President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight to Satan calling Judas Iscariot a sinner.
Abdullahi said, “While focusing on the fact that Maina was reinstated which we said was an embarrassment to our government and our party, we must not forget that there is an original sin. And that original sin was that Maina has been accused of one of the most monumental acts of corruption in the nation’s history but that was only possible under a PDP government. We must not forget that Maina is one of the toxic elements that the PDP left behind; so, they cannot distance themselves from him.’’
Abdullahi expressed confidence that the President who had left no one in doubt about his administration’s commitment to the corruption fight would get to the root of the matter.
But the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria argued on Wednesday that Maina might have compromised security agencies at Nigerian borders, who assisted him into the country unchallenged.
The Secretary-General of ASCSN, Alade Lawal, who stated this in an interview withThe PUNCH in Jos, said, “We are suspecting that our security agencies at the nation’s borders have compromised and refused to apprehend Abdulrasheed Maina. If not, how did he get into the country to be reabsorbed into the civil service? We feel he is being shielded by some powerful individuals who are supposed to be holding their positions in trust and now use it to shield criminals.
“When you look at this pension issues in Nigeria, a lot people have died without collecting a dime and such characters that played a very vital role in creating that sorry state of affairs may have been assisted. Maina cannot just sneak into the country like that. We have been told that while in Nigeria, he was not disguising in his movement from one place to another but in a convoy of many cars.
“So, there is more to it than what we are being told. The buck stops on the desk of Mr. President for his integrity which he has built over the years is being called to question by some of these people who claim to be representing his interest.”
Malami, Dambazau don’t work for me –Jonathan
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party have described President Muhammadu Buhari’s allegations as untrue.
They wondered whether those who wrote letters to Maina, asking him to resume work at the Ministry of Interior were appointed by the former president or the PDP.
Jonathan, who spoke though his media aide, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the claim by the Presidency was ridiculous.
He said, “It is ridiculous to say that Jonathan’s loyalists brought Maina back into service. Is it his loyalists that are in government? Somebody who has left office over two years, his loyalists still brought in a fugitive to power? It is laughable.
“Is it his loyalists that also promoted him and made him an acting director from the position of an assistant director? These are the questions they should answer.
“It is funny. It doesn’t make any sense. Is it Jonathan’s men that reinstated him into office, wrote a letter to him and asked him to return to work?
“This was a fugitive that ran away from Jonathan’s government and it was Jonathan’s men who also put him in office? Someone who ran from the law? It doesn’t make sense.”
The PDP, in its reaction, asked Nigerians to continue to ignore the government, saying it had lost its bearing.
Spokesperson for the party, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, told our correspondent on the telephone that the President should be bold to sack the entire work force.
Adeyeye said, “Who takes decisions for government? Is it civil servants or the government itself? This is government of liars. This administration has lost focus.
“For how long will this government continue to lie and show its incapability? Are the AGF and others loyalists of Jonathan? If you talk of civil service, Jonathan inherited the civil service. Civil service serves every government that comes into power.
“Maybe Buhari should sack all of them. It is shameful. This government brought in Maina secretly and reinstated him thinking that Nigerians won’t know.
“It is very shameful on Buhari’s government. Nothing is truthful about this government.”
Buhari paying lip service to corruption war –IYC
Even as the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress tried to absolve themselves from the reinstatement of Maina, the Ijaw Youth Council on Wednesday said the anti-corruption fight of the President Muhammadu Buhari would remain doubtful if those involved in the reinstatement of the wanted former chairman of Pension Reform Task Team were not sacked.
IYC particularly demanded the immediate sacking of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; and the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission for their roles in the scandal.
In a statement signed by its President, Mr. Eric Omare, IYC said Nigerians were beginning to doubt the Buhari-led administration over the way it was handling corruption cases involving top members of his cabinet.
The statement read, “The Ijaw Youth Council worldwide has called for the sacking of all officers involved in the embarrassing recall of the pension funds fugitive, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, saying that the incident has dealt a serious blow to the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration.
“It is totally unacceptable for key officers of the Buhari administration such as the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Mr. Malami, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abdulraham Dambazau and the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to have played key roles in the unthinkable reinstatement of Mr. Maina.
“If key officers of the Buhari administration such as Malami and Abdulraham Dambazau could be involved in such a despicable conduct, then it is safe to say that the Buhari administration pays lip service to the corruption war.”
I gave N282bn to finance ministry –Maina’s 2015 interview
Wanted former Chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, said in a live radio interview with Ahmed Isa of Brekete Family Reality Radio in 2015 that he recovered N282bn and handed it over to the then Ministry of Finance.
Maina further stated that the then minister, Okonjo-Iweala, deposited the money in the Central Bank of Nigeria. He, therefore, stated that there was no way he would have stolen money since he was not a signatory to the CBN account.
He said the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, who was the CBN Governor when the money was recovered, could bear him witness.