A fresh can of worms has been opened in the ongoing controversial Abdulrasheed Maina’s reinstatement saga, as fetid details of involvement of a “chain of pension predators,” has emerged.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, in a deposition he submitted to the Emmanuel Paulker-led Senate adhoc committee set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the return of Maina, former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms to the country and how he was readmitted into the civil service as a director, alleged the involvement of a powerful pension syndicate among them former top civil servants, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, federal legislators and ex-government officials as members.
He also wrote that Maina has not accounted for about 270 properties he recovered from alleged pension fraudsters.
In the deposition, Malami raised some posers: “What happened to the monies recovered from the syndicate? What about the 270 properties comprising of real estate and motor vehicles, one of which is a mansion worth N1 billion situated at No 42, Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, allegedly given to a senior lawyer meant to crave for his “buy in” in maximising media hype aimed at distracting the attention of the public pension fraud?
“There is perceived compromises in the investigation, prosecution and charges of real syndicate over the pension related matters.”
Another document obtained by Daily Sun said the 270 properties recovered by Maina’s team are domiciled with the EFCC.
“The properties, as we speak, have been shared among top officials of the commission, friends and family members, including lawyers of the agency,” part of the document read.
In the 13-page document dated November 14 submitted to the committee chairman, Malami said the alleged relooted properties included real estate and motor vehicles. He claimed that one of the said properties is worth N1 billion and situated at No 42, Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that the said property in Maitama, was purchased by a Lagos-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria at a giveaway price of N600 million. The property was recovered from Dr. Shaibu Teidi. Teidi. He was a former Director of Pensions Account, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation before he was removed and prosecuted in 2013 by the EFCC.
In addition, Malami told the committee, which is meeting behind closed doors that his signature on the said document which reinstated Maina, was forged.
He claimed that desperate people out to smear his image were behind the forgery. He, however, failed to reveal their identities.
Malami who has so far appeared before the Senate adhoc committee thrice is expected to make more appearances to respond to allegations made against him.
Since he is the head of the ministry, which supervises EFCC, he is expected to aid the committee in recovering the alleged relooted properties recovered from pension fraudsters.
Meanwhile, the Senate has extended the sitting period of the adhoc committee as well as expanded its scope of work.
The committee is now expected to champion the recovery of relooted assets. The approval, followed a point of order raised by Paulker.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided, sought the nod of his colleagues to approve the request. The committee was eventually granted the request.
…Oyo-Ita, Akande fault Malami over ex-pension panel’s boss
It was tensed moment at the investigative hearing conducted by the House of Representatives adhoc committee.
The two-day hearing by the Aliyu Madaki-led committee started yesterday with the Head of the Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Minister of Interior, Abdulraham Dambazzau, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, saying all they know about Maina’s reinstatement.
Malami denied ever authorising the reinstatement of Maina. He testified that he “kept in view” a letter presented for his signature by an unnamed line officer, to give legal advice that Maina should return to the civil service and that he was highly embarrassed with media reports that he wrote to Oyo-Ita to reinstate Maina.
Malami who explained that he first met Maina in the United Arab Emirate with the permission of the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA), also alleged that a powerful pension syndicate which has Maina, other former top civil servants, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, federal legislators and ex-government officials as members, were behind negative media reports against him.
He also blamed the Jonathan administration, the seventh Senate, former Senate President, David Mark, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other parties sued by Maina for not appealing judgments obtained against them between 2013-2014.
“Let me state that the incidental correspondence or legal opinion, if any, expressed by my office relating to the reinstatement of Maina, was offered free of any strings attached,” he said.
However, Oyo-Ita, faulted the account of Malami as she stated that she received letters from the office of AGF demanding the reinstatement of Maina.
She said Malami’s office wrote series of letters to her office to press for the reinstatement.
She said: “Maina, from records available to us, was dismissed in the year 2013 from the Federal Civil Service for absconding from duty.
“From the beginning of this year, we started receiving series of letters written by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, addressed to the chairman Federal Civil Service Commission and copied to the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
“As those letters came in, the Federal Civil Service Commission wrote to my office, directing us to request the Ministry of Interior to set up a Senior Staff Committee to review the directives from the Attorney General.
She expressed surprise that Maina was finally reinstated without the assent of her office.
“When I got hold of that letter of reinstatement, I held on to the letter because I needed more clarification of that letter, so I was surprised to find out that without officially conveying the letter of his reinstatement or any letter of posting whatsoever, the said Mr Maina was absorbed into the Ministry of Interior which I learnt through the media.
“I want to place on record here that I still have the original letters here with me. My office will never convey such reinstatement letter to Mr. Maina, so there is no way he could have resumed work at the Ministry of Interior if he had not being officially notified of doing so by the office of the head of civil service commission.”
Also testifying, the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service, Joseph Oluremi Akande, told the committee that the letter requesting the reinstatement of Maina emanated from the office of the AGF.
“Maina was declared absent from duty in 2013 and attempt to locate him proved abortive so the ministry informed the head of service and the head of service informed the commission and ordered that a query be given to Maina to explain why he has been absent from duty.
“Ministry of Interior gave the query and set up an investigative panel to hear the other side of the case but they were unable to locate him.
“When Maina was unable to respond to the query or attend the investigative panel, the SSC (Senior Staff Committee) of the ministry was conveyed to consider his case and after discussion and deliberation, the SSC recommended that Maina be dismissed. When the letter was sent to us from the HoS, we sat on it and the commission agreed with the recommendation and Maina was so dismissed.
“Sometimes in 2014, Maina wrote to the commission appealing that they reconsider their decision and that they review the dismissal given to him.”
Mr. Akande said the commission started receiving letters from the AGF from early 2017.
“In 2017, the commission received a letter from the Attorney General dated 19th January 22017 demanding the reinstatement of Maina.
“Again, the AGF sent another letter to us 27th April. The third letter informing us that he is the chief legal officer of the country and that the basis of our dismissing Maina cannot stand because judge of High Court in Abuja has paused the warrant of arrest and therefore directed.
“The ministry of interior met through their SSC and recommended that he be reinstated. When we looked at it, we approved that he be reinstated.”
The main witness, Maina was absent. But his lawyer Mohammed Katu, who announced appearance on his behalf, said his client would only appear before the committee if he was sure he would be protected from being arrested by any of the security agencies or the EFCC.
Maina has been declared wanted by the EFCC, the Nigerian Police and INTERPOL. Katu shocked the panel when he disclosed that Maina was paid salary up until October, even as he treated 23 files minuted to him.
When asked to re-confirm his statements, by a member of the committee, Ayo Omidiran, Katu said: “Yes, Honourable, I can let you know that 23 files were sent to Maina for him to treat as acting director.”
According to Katu, Maina was reinstated via a letter signed by one Dr. R.K Attahiru of the Department of Human Resources in the Interior ministry. He displayed the original copy of the letter.