On Sunday, February 17, 2013, a fugitive fled from Nigeria to escape arrest by the police and other security agents on his trail. Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina was reported to have fled to Saudi Arabia, and then settled in the United Arab Emirates following an arrest warrant issued against him by the Senate, and the decision of the Presidency at the time, to discipline him for absconding from his duty post without permission.
Upon arrival in the UAE, Maina began to make frantic efforts to seek out influential people in Nigeria to intercede on his behalf. Maina had fled the country, following a pension scam involving several billions of naira stolen from retired police officers.
In 2010, Maina had been redeployed from the then Ministry of Internal Affairs by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to sanitize a corrupt pension system.
However, scandal broke in February 2012 when Maina was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to more than N100 billion. Based on the allegations against him, Maina was invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration.
The Senate after completion of its investigation issued a Warrant of Arrest against Maina. Ignoring the panel, Maina sued the Senate and the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and then went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police.
Following his disappearance, Maina was dismissed by the Head of Service for absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest, and was charged to court. On July 21, 2015, he was mentioned by the EFCC as a major accomplice in a 24-count charge filed against Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretence. While Oronsaye and the two other accused were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, the EFCC said Maina was still at large.
Three days ago, online news site, Premium Times, broke the news that Abdulrasheed Maina had been secretly reinstated into the civil service. Multiple sources confirmed that Maina, who is still wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was secretly recalled and promoted to the position of director in charge of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior.
This new position was a step ahead of the position he held before he was appointed to chair the pension task force.
The news of the reinstatement first filtered through a congratulatory message for Mr. Maina by a group called League of Civil Society Organisations which commended the federal government for the reinstatement.
A notice on the EFCC’s website reads:
The public is hereby notified that Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), whose photograph appears above, is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for offences bordering on Procurement Fraud and Obtaining by False Pretence.
Dark complexioned Maina is allegedly complicit in the over N 2 billion Pensions Biometric Scam in the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. He remains at large, after charges were filed against his accomplices.
Despite this, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, in a statement by his press secretary, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, confirmed that Maina is now in charge of the Human Resources Department of the ministry.
Dambazau however denied responsibility for Mr. Maina’s recall to the service.
The statement explained that Maina “was posted few days ago to the Ministry of Interior by the Office of the Head of Service on an Acting capacity to fill a vacancy created following the retirement of the Director heading the Human Resources Department in the Ministry”.
Dambazau’s statement said that the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission were responsible for Maina’s recall, amd that the two bodies are responsible for “issues relating to Discipline, Employment, Re-engagement, Posting, Promotion and Retirements of Federal Civil Servants.”
The statement did not say if Dambazau was aware that Maina is still a fugitive wanted by the EFCC.
“It is understood that Maina’s last posting was with the Ministry of Interior, and that is probably why he was re-posted back to the Ministry,” the statement added.
Maina is not the only one
The Maina case is not the only one of officials accused of corruption apparently being shielded, or recalled by the Buhari Administration.
In August 2010, the then President Goodluck Jonathan sacked the army’s chief of staf, Gen. Abdulrahman Dmabazau, and the commanders of the air force and navy. They were dismissed after reports emerged that they had committed illegalities in arranging arms deals. More than $1 billion was reported to have been diverted to companies owned by their friends and family members. The allegations were never cleared, and a 2016 presidential report on corruption in the armed forces, did not include Dambazau’s time as Army Chief. He is now interior minister.
Similarly, there has been no reaction from the presidency since the report of the investigation into suspended SGF, Babachir Lawal, was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari some months ago.
Last Thursday, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) called on the government to release Vice President Yemi Osibanjo´s committee’s report on alleged fraud against suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and former Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA)
Yabagi Sani, the national chairman of the ADP, accused the Federal Government of paying lip service to its fight against corruption. Sani also referenced the $25 billion contract award scandal in the NNPC and other unresolved cases of corruption involving government functionaries brings to question its commitment to the fight against corruption.
“The President should come out clean on the NNPC contract award scandal since he is the supervising Minister of Petroleum,” Sani said.
Similarly, Say No Campaign, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), called on the government to release the report on the suspended officials. Convener of the organisation, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said that the issue had remained a secret to Nigerians in spite of the huge amount of $43 million involved.
“What remains unclear is why the president instituted a panel to conduct the investigation, and why the EFCC was not directed to handle the cases from beginning.
“Regardless of these anomalies, the president maintains silence, making justice to remain delayed and the anti-corruption fight, led by the president, himself, in jeopardy.
“While the desire of the current regime to fight corruption is unequivocally stated, the mannerism or body language of the chief executive, in the face of corruption allegation against certain public officials within inner circle, betrays this noble intent.
“The reality of seemingly protecting `sacred cows’ stares us right in the face and thus has become difficult to ignore,’’ he said.