Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina
* Court declines to stop arrest of embattled pensions boss
By Mohammad Bello, Tobi Soniyi and Senator Iroegbu
President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, to commence disciplinary action against the chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
The president's order is seen as a prelude to Maina's eventual dismissal from the civil service - an action that The Senate had pushed for in very strong terms.
The directive is premised on a status report submitted by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, about efforts by the police towards executing the warrant issued by the Senate for Maina's arrest.
A statement issued by Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati, read: "Following his receipt from the Inspector-General of Police of a status report on efforts by the Nigeria Police to execute the warrant issued by the Senate for the arrest of the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, President Goodluck Jonathan today directed the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to immediately commence disciplinary action against Alhaji Maina for absconding from duty.
"Section 030402 of the Federal Government’s Public Service Rules lists Absence from Duty without Leave as an act of Serious Misconduct punishable by dismissal."
The statement added that the Inspector-General of Police noted in his report to President Jonathan that on receiving the Senate’s warrant for Maina's arrest, he set up a team of detectives led by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police to find and arrest him in compliance with the Senate’s directive.
"The Inspector-General said that the police has since mounted surveillance at Alhaji Maina’s home and office but has been unable to arrest him because he has gone into hiding and stayed away from both locations since the warrant was issued, leading to his publicly being declared wanted by the Police.
Abati said Abubakar had assured the president that the police was still carrying out “intensive search” for Maina and would ensure he is arrested and produced before the Senate.
The president's spokesman said Jonathan's directive to the Head of Service noted that it was clear from the Inspector-General’s report that Maina had absconded from his official duties.
"President Jonathan directed the Head of Service to act expeditiously on the disciplinary proceedings against Alhaji Maina and report back to him on actions taken," the statement added.
Jonathan had earlier on Thursday ordered an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Maina after the Senate called for his dismissal over alleged contemptuous attitude towards it.
Peeved by what it perceived as the president's reluctance to order Maina's dismissal and prosecution for his alleged complicity in the embezzling of pension funds, President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, on Wednesday at a particularly tense debate said the president should "choose between Maina and the Senate".
Mark said: "The Senate has teeth to bite and it will bite when it will bite. The executive now has to choose between Maina and the Senate. That is the bottom line. If they choose to go with Maina - fine; we will react accordingly."
However, Jonathan through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Reuben Abati, dismissed insinuations that he was shielding the embattled civil servant, adding that he could only be sacked through civil service rules. Apart from his position as head of the Pension Reform Task Team, Maina is deputy director in the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office, an agency in the ministry of interior.
“As a man that believes in the rule of law, the President believes that laid down procedure should be followed in addressing issues,” Abati said, adding that the process of stripping any erring civil servant of his job resides in the Head of Service of the Federation, who is the executor of the regulations guiding the hiring and firing of anyone found wanting.
He continued:" The Senate has constitutional power to summon anybody. If such person failed to appear before them, the lawmakers are also empowered to issue warrant of arrest against the person.
"The President has not in any way stood in the way of the Senate in inviting Maina. You will recall that the police even declared him wanted.
"Maina is a civil servant. If he has done something that amount to a breach of civil service rule, the appropriate office to do the right thing and ensure that due process is followed is the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
"Nobody should suggest that the President is backing Maina. It is not an issue for the President."
But Maina's attempt to use the courts to stave off a possible arrest failed Friday as a Federal High Court in Abuja refused his ex parte application to stop the police from arresting him.
Ruling on an exparte application filed by Maina, Justice Adamu Bello berated Maina's lawyer, Mahmoud Magaji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria for granting an interview on the ex parte application to a television.
Maina had applied to the court via an ex parte, to stop the Senate from ordering his arrest because he had already filed a suit.
He further asked the court to compel the respondents to pay him 1,000,000,000:00 (one billion naira ) on the footing of the aggravated and exemplary damages for unlawful interference with his right to perform his lawful duties and sum of N500,000,000:00 (five hundred million naira) as general and exemplary damages.
While throwing out his application, Justice Bello said: "The conduct of the learned senior counsel in the circumstance is inappropriate.
"By leaking the hearing of the ex parte application to the general public, he has wittingly or unwittingly converted the motion ex parte to a motion in notice, there fore deprive this court the discretion to grant the interim orders of injunction.
"On this alone, the application cannot be granted."
The judge also faulted the procedure adopted by the lawyer saying, "Relying on Order 4 Rule 4c of the Fundamental Rights of Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 does not assist the applicant because Rule 4c cannot be read in isolation of Rule 3 of the same order which provides that the court may if satisfied that exceptional hardship may be caused on the applicant before the service of the applicant's motion on notice especially when the life or liberty of the applicant is involved.
"Any ex parte motion for interim reliefs under the Fundamental Rights of Enforcement especially under Order 4 must be filed before the service of the main application for the enforcement of the Applicant's Fundamental Rights and not after service.
"It is too late in the day to approach the court under Order 4. If there was any urgency in the matter, that urgency was lost when the Applicant filed and served his motion on notice on the Respondents without filing the ex parte application to seek the interim reliefs.
"It is trite law that self induced urgency is not a basis upon which interim orders of injunction are granted.
"Consequently, in view of all the reasons stated, I decline to grant the interim orders sought by the Applicant.
"Let him await the hearing of the motion on notice which is fixed for Monday 18th so that other parties could be heard on merit."
In his application, Maina listed the following as the defendants: the Senate, the Senate President, the Clerk of the Senate, the Senate Committee On Establishment & Public Service, the Senate Committee State and Local Govt Administration, the Inspector General of Police, Senator Aloysius Etuk (The Senate Committee on Establishment & Public Service) and Senator Kabiru Gaya (The Senate Committee State and Local Govt Administration).
In the main suit, Maina asked the court for an order of injunction restraining the respondents from arresting or threatening to arrest him who is exercising his lawful duties a Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team.
He asked for an order setting aside the warrant of arrest issued for his arrest as same constituted a violation of his rights as guaranteed under section 35(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
He also asked for a declaration that the decision of the Senate through its Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service; and the Committee on State and Local Govt administration directing his immediate arrest and detention by the police without any legal justification was unconstitutional, illegal ultra vires, null and void and of no effect what so ever as same violated section 36(1) and section 6 (6) B of the constitution.
He also asked for an order restraining the respondents from interfering with management and administration of Pension Reform Task Team or initiating the arrest of the applicant as Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team as same was unconstitutional, illegal null and void as same violate the provisions of section 36 (1) and 6 (6) B of the constitution.
Other reliefs claimed by Maina are:
An order restraining the Respondents from further issuance of any letter of invitation to him as respondents having completed and submitted their report without giving him fair hearing as guaranteed under the constitution.
An order quashing the purported report of the Respondents (Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service; and Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration) as it affects the applicant.