Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina
•Demands pension task force chair’s dismissal, prosecution
By Omololu Ogunmade
The Senate Wednesday drew the battle line with President Goodluck Jonathan over the continued stay in office of the embattled Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
During a heated debate on a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, and supported by 107 members, over Maina’s persistent refusal to honour the legislature’s invitation, a tough-talking Senate President David Mark pointedly told the president to choose between Maina and the Senate.
Many senators believe that Maina’s perceived show of disrespect was because he had the support of the president.
The Senate, therefore, demanded that the president should order Maina’s dismissal from the public service and he should be arrested and prosecuted for fraud.
He became the second top public official in recent times that would put the National Assembly and the president on a collision course.
Last year, the House of Representatives had demanded the sack of the Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh.
In a bid to put pressure on the president to sack Oteh, the National Assembly had refused to appropriate funds for the commission in the 2013 budget until she is removed.
Debating the motion Wednesday, Mark said the Senate had been pushed to the wall over Maina's alleged contempt for the legislative institution, adding that the "Senate has teeth to bite and it will bite when it will bite".
Mark, who said that the cup of Maina's offences had run over, added that the Senate had given him a long rope to hang himself.
He added: "Maina is just an individual who perhaps said much more than he could manage and he has crucified himself. That is the bottom line of this. He has crucified himself. The executive now has to choose between Maina and the Senate. That is the bottom line. If they choose to go along with Maina, fine; we will react accordingly. And to extend the hand of friendship is the correct thing to do because we must work together.
“There is no running away from that one. It is a test case. If Maina remains, then the Senate will react appropriately and I don’t think we are short of ideas nor are we short of what we want to do. We know the step to take. So, I want to thank you all for your contributions. We can’t enumerate the sins of Maina. They are too many and like Senator Adeyeye said, when God decided to give people manners, Maina just decided to be absent.
"There is no phrase that anybody has used on Maina here today that is not correct. Finally, let me emphasise that nobody in this country is bigger than our democracy; not one person in this country that is bigger than our democracy. I have been extremely patient with Maina; very patient, very understanding so that when we react, Nigerians will appreciate the steps that we have taken.
"So, I don’t think that what we have done is out of place; we gave him enough time and he crucified himself. He is wanted by the police now; whether the police are serious or not in looking for Maina is the next step we are going to take because Maina cannot be briefing the press somewhere and the police will say they cannot find him."
At the end of the debate, the Senate resolved that Maina should be dismissed from public service immediately and simultaneously disengaged from any act relating to public duty. They also resolved that Maina be immediately arrested, investigated and prosecuted in a law court.
The senators also summoned the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to appear before the committee of the whole House to explain why he has failed to arrest Maina.
In his contribution, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) said it was sad that Maina, an assistant director in the civil service who allegedly misappropriated over N100 billion pension fund, could boldly be moving about in Abuja with a long convoy and with over 30 security men.
He also said it was high time that the Senate asked Jonathan if he wanted the legislature to still remain, adding that "if he doesn't want this institution to remain, then there is no point coming here".
Also, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) said the impression an average Nigerian would have from Maina’s disregard for the Senate is that senators could not take action because they had been compromised.
According to him, Maina has the audacity to go about in armoured car and receiving the president at the airport.
He said: "The impression had been given in the minds of Nigerians that the Senate had been compromised and that we were weak about this matter. Who is behind Maina's impunity? What was he doing receiving the president of this country at the airport?"
On his part, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (Ekiti North) also queried the capacity of Maina to accompany the president on a trip to Mexico.
The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said: "I am totally depressed. This is the first time we are discussing a motion that will lead to the dismissal of a public servant.
"I have never seen this kind of disrespect for an institution of government. If anybody thinks he's bigger than the country, it's our responsibility to bring him down and to get rid of Maina from public service. Otherwise, our nation would continue to degenerate."
In his contribution, Senator Aloysius Etok (Akwa Ibom North-west) said: "During our zonal public hearings, we saw pensioners suffering. We invited Maina, but he decided not to appear. He blackmailed us in the media. He went to the point of hiring a crowd. What an insult to the institution of the Senate.
"If we have five people like Maina, Nigeria will collapse. He is a fraudster. He is riding two bulletproof cars while pensioners are hungry. He spent N1 billion to verify 29 pensioners abroad. He goes around with 38 security men and every week, he spends N8 million on his personal security."
The Senate last December had ordered the arrest of Maina for his alleged refusal to honour an invitation by the joint Senate Committee probing the management of pension funds in the last five years.
It accused him of failing to account for N195 billion pension funds during the period.
Mark had signed a warrant of arrest, which mandated the IG to arrest and bring Maina to the Senate by all means.
But Maina headed for the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, asking it to stop the Senate and the police from breaching his fundamental rights.
In addition, he is seeking an order of the court to quash the report of the Senate committee, which indicted him for fraud, and another order to invalidate the warrant of arrest issued against him.