The government’s decision to promote Abdurasheed Maina, a fugitive of the law, to the position of a director in the federal civil service raises ethical questions and casts doubts on the commitment of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to fulfil one of its campaign promises, writes Tobi Soniyi
Die-hard fans of the President Muhammadu Buhari-government must be scratching their heads trying to come out with both a moral and legal justification of the decision not only to recall Abdurasheed Maina, a fugitive of the law but to promote him from the post of an assistant director to a substantive director.
Maina, was a former chairman of the Presidential Task Tea on Pension Reforms. Before his appointment as chairman of the pension task force, Maina was an assistant director in the ministry of internal affairs. He was dismissed from office in 2013 by the Federal Civil Service Commission acting on a recommendation from the Office of the Head of Service.
He was accused of managing a massive pension fraud scheme involving the sum of N100billion.
Maina, was on July 21, 2015, charged by the EFCC alongside Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a 24-count charge 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, Maina was at large. Consequently, he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He reportedly escaped to the United Arab Emirates where until recently he lived as a fugitive.
Instead of handling him over to the EFCC, the Buhari administration had chosen to reward him with a double promotion! For a government that promised to stop corruption that is a monumental scandal! This is the same government that went, like a thief in the night, to raid judges houses! This administration has just set a precedent on how not to fight corruption.
Welcome to the fools paradise. As if this government has not insulted the intelligence of Nigerians enough, it has now chosen to rub it on our face.
To begin with, elsewhere, the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu would have resigned his appointment. This is because the decision to treat Maina like a hero does not only rubbish his work, it also makes it difficult for him to carry on as a man with a conscience.
The commission had said that it was still looking for Maina. But for one, Magu should wake up. Someone within this administration, someone who is more powerful than him, is hell bent on undermining him! This is not the first attempt by this government to rubbish him. In case he has forgotten, someone in this government wrote the damning report that the Senate relied on to refuse to clear him for the EFCC job.
Many have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way government surreptitiously brought Maina back.
Author of many books on constitutional law, Chief Sebastine Hon, (SAN) said: “Just recently, within our indelible, active mental recollection as Nigerians, the security and intelligence agencies nearly brought down the roof of this country when the NJC directed that Justice Ademola who was discharged and acquitted and some Justices and Judges who were being investigated should return to their duty posts. Why the volt faced melodrama now? Are they easily selling themselves as tendentious and warped?
“The EFCC should not just bark, it should bite, by immediately arresting and arraigning Maina. Anything short of this will completely rubbish not just this administration’s anti-corruption war but also the reputation of Mr. President and the EFCC.”
The coordinator of Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said the reinstatement signified a major setback in the fight against corruption.
“This is a setback not only for the anti-corruption war but also for some of us who have been advocating against corruption.
“It is completely demoralising and also before the international community, it pitches the anti-corruption war as a mere fluke that is been used by this government without any commitment or sincerity.
“It further explains that it is only EFCC that is genuinely fighting corruption and government is merely latching on the achievements of EFCC.
“Maina has defied the three existing arms of this government. The 7th Assembly summoned Maina severally but he defied and failed to appear before them over the period for which they tried to investigate his activities in the pension tax fraud.
“The judiciary has asked that he should appear based on the charges of EFCC, he has failed to do that. In the course of the investigation, EFCC which is an executive body tried severally to invite Maina to come and answer some of the allegations and issues, he never responded and only ran out of the country to Dubai where he spent the stolen money lavishly.
“For this government not only to bring him back behind the back doors but surreptitiously admit him back into the system and promoting him from the position of Assistant Director further confirms that the Minister of Interior is the architect of the shenanigan.”
Also reacting, the Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onumah said, “the anti-corruption war becomes a problem when the government keeps working for and against itself.
“It’s quite unfortunate. Sometimes you wonder why the federal government continues to shoot itself in the foot when it comes to the war against corruption.
“It creates problem for the government because corruption is not only about perception, it’s about belief. If people don’t feel that the government is sincere about the fight against corruption, it becomes problematic.
“The EFCC has to follow up on this case. Going by their words that he is on their wanted list; that means he has a case to answer with them. Now that he is in the country, we hope that they will do the needful and let the public know the outcome of their own investigation.”
However , Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, described issue as highly controversial.
He called on the EFCC to clear the issues.
He said: “There are lots of confusion about this issue. We (Nigerians) need to see a report either from EFCC or ICPC indicating that the man has done something wrong. If the National Assembly has any report on the investigations they have done, let them make the report public. If he has not done anything wrong and it’s just a calculated attempt by those corrupt people who are stealing pension money, then it’s unfair.
“If there is no report by these agencies, it would be unfair just to believe the corrupt members of the National Assembly of that time. If there is such report and the government went ahead to do what they have done, then we will now raise our concern.”
However, those asking EFCC to arrest Maina appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the forces behind Maina are fiercer and bigger than the commission.
As part of efforts to strengthen the anti-corruption war, the president signed about nine agreements including and extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates. Bringing Maina into the country surreptitiously undermines such engagement and makes Nigeria a laughing stock before the world.
Following the outrage that greeted Maina’s promotion, the Presidency issued the following statement:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the immediate disengagement from service of Mr Abdullahi Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
“In a memo to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the President equally demanded a full report of the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior.
“The report is to be submitted to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, before the end of work today, Monday, October 23, 2017.”
The problem with such a reactionary statement is that it does not inspire confidence. Since the president has not been forthright enough to take a decision on the report of investigation into allegation of corrupt acts against suspended Secretary to the Federal Government, Babahir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, submitted to it by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led panel, many are no longer carried away by the president’s style.
Since no decision was taken on that report, no one believes that a report on how Maina was recalled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs will see the light of the day.
Reacting to the president’s directive, Hon said: “Sacking Mr. Maina, commendable as it is, remains a grossly inadequate measure. All persons or officials involved in this mindless illegality must be sacked. And as I strongly cautioned above, anything short of prosecution of Mr. Maina will be unacceptable.”
This obviously is not a government with a zero tolerance for corruption.
Sacking Mr. Maina, commendable as it is, remains a grossly inadequate measure.