â€¢ Says assassins after him
Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The embattled former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, has finally broken his silence on the multi-billion naira pension fraud that took place when he was in charge of the reform task force four years ago, alleging that N300 million was stolen from the Office of Head of Service of the Federation daily before the advent of the Pension Transitional Directorate (PTAD).
Given that he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and afterwards by Interpol, after being indicted in the N2.1 billion pension fraud, he broke his silence in hiding.
Dressed in a black suit, a white shirt and red tie, Maina, in a video which went viral on the social media, said he went into hiding because assassins were allegedly after him.
Also in the video, he addressed the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him as the former pension boss under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, for which he was indicted and sacked in 2013 after he absconded.
Four years after evading arrest, news broke two weeks ago that he had been reinstated into the civil service as a deputy director in the Ministry of Interior, which aroused a public outcry.
Following the outrage caused by his reinstatement, President Muhammadu Buhari immediately ordered for his sack, while the security agencies issued fresh warrants for his arrest.
Speaking from his hideout, Maina, who said he was being victimised, claimed he was being targeted by people who are against the anti-corruption crusade of the government, adding that he has documents implicating certain powerful people in corrupt deals.
Maina who however failed to mention who these people are, said: â€œGive us three months, we will bring out over N2 trillion to Nigerians.â€
While dismissing the perception that he was thief, he said he was not on the run, insisting that he was in hiding because some people were allegedly trying to assassinate him.
Calling on Nigerians not to believe the rumours about him, he said he never stole N195 billion and alleged that N300 million was being stolen every day, adding: â€œWe know where these monies are.â€
Also speaking through his aide Olajide Fashikun Tuesday in Kaduna, the former pension task force boss further alleged that he was being haunted for stopping the theft of N5.32 billion monthly in the office of the Head of Service and the Police Pension office, adding that he was framed by â€œpension thieves to stop him from exposing themâ€.
He said the investigation ordered by President Buhari into the matter would expose those involved in pension fraud.
â€œBetween the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Police Pension office, a leakage of N5.32 billion per month was stopped.
â€œThis is what civil servants steal monthly in the two offices out of the 99 pension offices in the country.
â€œForty-three persons were arrested and handed over to the EFCC to prosecute while 222 houses were seized from them,â€ he revealed.
According to Fashikun, as soon as Maina had absconded to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013, before the emergence of PTAD, N35 billion was stolen in the Office of the Head of Service.
â€œIn the current media trial where all manner of stories have been published, there has been a lot of distortion of the facts and sometimes outright blackmail, all in an attempt to paint Maina black like Lucifer.
â€œAfter the biometric exercise, there were 71,000 genuine workers in the Police Pension office who needed N826 million to pay them as opposed to the N5.3 billion appropriated for them annually. They were pocketing N4.2 billion yearly.
â€œThey devised several ingenious ways to pull this cash out. They pulled out an average of N300 million daily, Monday to Friday. There are bank alerts to substantiate these assertions.
â€œThere is a particular person who has 69 cloned versions of his name on the payroll. Bank officials were also in cahoots. Names of dead pensioners were exhumed from the dead and paid pensions. Accounts were created with fictitious names,â€ he alleged.
Speaking further, Fashikun said agents who were engaged in multiple collections of these monies from banks got 5 per cent of the volume collected.
According to him, â€œThere has been a deliberate cover up in a well written script to give Maina a bad name.
â€œEmerging evidence has shown that Maina is just a victim of corruption fighting back.
â€œThe then Senate committee in a bid to crucify Maina did the hatchet job when they told Nigerians that he stole N195 billion.
â€œMaina was just a victim of high power play of some powerful individuals in high places. So for three years, Maina underwent a media trial where he was found guilty several times on the pages of newspapers.â€
But as Maina spoke from hiding Tuesday, the presidency kept mum on the leaked memo written by the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, to President Buhari on October 23, 2017, in which she reminded Buhari that she had verbally brought to his attention on Wednesday October 11, after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), of the implications of reinstating the former pension boss in the civil service.
The president, however, failed to heed her warning and only ordered that Maina be sacked on October 23, after the scandal had broken over his reinstatement.
When contacted Tuesday on the issue, the presidentâ€™s spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, referred THISDAY to the Head of Service, saying they knew nothing about her memo to the president.