A House of Representatives ad-hoc committee has indicted the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, for his role in the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, who was dismissed from service over pension fund fraud.
Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), was dismissed in 2013 and subsequently declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when he failed to appear for questioning.
However, the House panel, which By Musa Abdullahi Krishi investigated the controversial circumstances in which Maina was promoted and reinstated into the service, said the Attorney General was the “architect” of the crisis.
Following media reports about Maina’s secret reinstatement, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered his immediate sack.
He also directed the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, to submit a report on how Maina was recalled into the service.
The House in October resolved to probe the matter, which it described as embarrassing and unacceptable.
The report laid on the floor of the House a fortnight ago, said Maina’s reinstatement was “fraudulently masterminded” and that the Attorney General “pressurized all that mattered” to force Maina back into the service.
The report, seen by Daily Trust, said it was established that the Attorney General met with Maina in Dubai knowing full well that the ex-pension task force boss was a wanted person.
It said there was undue interference and pressure on the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) from Malami on the matter.
The panel said it was curious that Malami could facilitate Maina’s recall when he admitted that the ex-pension chief was part of a ‘pension syndicate’ that fed fat on pension fund.
The AGF’s actions on the reinstatement contravened Section 158 of the 1999 constitution, the panel said in its 13-page report.
Section158 (1) of the constitution states: “In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the National Judicial Council, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, the Federal Character Commission, and the Independent National Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.”
“The Attorney General knew that Maina is a fugitive, yet he met him in Dubai. Maina’s reinstatement didn’t follow due process and it was fraudulently masterminded,” the report said.
The panel, therefore, recommended that the AGF should be reprimanded and cautioned.
It further said he should be advised on the best way to deal with such issues and not to interfere in matters he has no jurisdiction over.
Similarly, the panel said it found the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of interior, Engr Abubakar Magaji, wanting for his role in documenting Maina following the purported reinstatement.
It said his action was done without the necessary written clearance from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
Although the panel noted that Magaji was remorseful over his conduct, it recommended that he too should be cautioned.
Also, the panel noted that the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) erred by taking directive from the Attorney General to recommend Maina’s reinstatement in contravention of Section 158 of the constitution.
It recommended that the commission should be asked to stick to civil service rules in such matters and not to succumb to pressure from any quarters.
The Senior Staff Committee (SSC) constituted to look into the possibility of Maina’s recall, which eventually recommended his re-engagement, should be cautioned, the panel said.
The report of the 12-member panel, headed by Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano), said Maina’s 2013 dismissal from the civil service remains valid and his reinstatement is voided.
It equally noted the insistence of the Head of Service, Oyo-Ita, in opposing Maina’s reinstatement and that the right thing should be done.
The report said the Nigeria Immigration Service had no role in Maina’s disappearance, his return into the country and his reinstatement into the civil service.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) is equally cleared by the report.
But the report noted that the police were not forthcoming with information regarding issue.
On the EFCC, the panel said the commission did not play any role as a letter purportedly written to Immigration Service clearing Maina never emanated from the anti-graft agency.
Maina, who chaired the pension task force during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was alleged to have mismanaged billions of naira meant for pensioners across the country.
The 7th Senate that also probed the matter indicted him for the offence. Following the indictment, EFCC declared him wanted, but he was thought to have fled the country at the time.
He reportedly returned to the country surreptitiously early last year, reported for duty at the ministry of Interior with the rank of a director even though he was dismissed as an assistant director in 2013.
During the committee’s hearing on the matter on November 23, 2017, Maina did not appear before the panel in person. He was represented by a group of lawyers led by Barrister Mohammed Sani Katu.
His lawyers listed conditions for his appearance before the panel, including a guarantee that no security agency should arrest or harass him if he showed up to testify.He never turned up, a source close to the panel said.
Maina also argued through his lawyers that he was not properly sacked from the civil service because even before the purported dismissal, he had gone to court to challenge the action, insisting that those that purportedly sacked him had no such powers to do so.
“On the issue of his disappearance, he had to disappear because there were so many threats to his life,” Katu had told the panel.
Barrister Katu said Maina was reinstated on grade level 16 via a letter dated 28th September, 2017 from the interior ministry signed by one Dr Aki Attahiru.
Malami said he could not recall signing any letter directing the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) to reinstate Maina, saying the matter was still “a work in progress and not concluded” as at October 5, 2017.
He told the panel that there indeed existed pension fraud with a syndicate, including serving and retired civil servants, legislators, and public office holders.
The head of service, Oyo-Ita also told the panel that after Maina’s dismissal from the civil service in 2013, her office started receiving letters from the AGF, asking for his reinstatement.
She said the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) consequently wrote to her to request that the Ministry of Interior should review Maina’s sack. A Senior Staff Committee was constituted to review the case but it upheld the dismissal. However, she said, shortly after that, the commission wrote another letter to reinstate Maina.
A second committee was constituted, which recommended Maina’s reinstatement.
The head of service said: “Once I got that letter, I held on to it, because I needed more clarification on that. So, I was surprised to see that without giving any letter, the said Mr Maina was re-absorbed and posted back to the interior ministry.
“I want to make it clear that without the civil service conveying the official communication to him, he shouldn’t have been posted to the ministry.”