Sneaking In and Out
Do you remember the incantations of the famous Nigerian Magician, Professor Peller? – “O ri changa, babari changa”, “the more you look, the less you see”! This seems to be exactly what is happening in ‘Mainagate’. Some of the main actors in the so-called fight against corruption, that is, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Department of State Services, the Immigration Department and Ministry of Interior, the Head of Service, were all certainly in the know that the wanted man (fugitive) was back in town. What is even more baffling, is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has launched a man-hunt for Maina, now that he has disappeared. Why was he not picked up when he came into the country, and resumed work at the Ministry? I choose not to use the term ‘sneak’ into the country, as it is pretty obvious (even to a baby), that Maina came back into the country somewhat openly, with the knowledge, connivance, and complicity of several government agencies and officials.
If so many people, including those that worked with Maina in the Ministry for the one month or so after his resumption, knew he was there, can the EFCC in all good conscience claim that it was unaware? Assuming, but not conceding, that the EFCC was oblivious of Maina’s presence in the country, then we can only conclude that the EFCC is sloppy and not on top of its game.
Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) under former President Jonathan’s Administration, is wanted in connection with a N2 billion fraud with Pension funds. As far as I am concerned, stealing Pensioners’ hard earned money, is one of the worst crimes that one can be accused of. Depriving helpless old people of their entitlements, after they have spent their youth working, is abominable. The thought of it makes one emotional, and moves one to tears. Maina is accused of owning properties that someone of his station, ordinarily, cannot afford. He vehemently denies the allegations of fraud, and instead, claims that his Task Force uncovered a N100 billion Pension Scam, and recovered N282 billion cash, as a result of which he is being hunted, witch hunted and framed by ‘Pension Thieves’, who are also after his life, to ensure that they are not exposed.
Whatever the case, this is a matter that requires thorough investigation, not even by the “Secret Seven” or “Famous Five” (fictional child detectives created by Enid Blyton), but by James Bond (007) of the fictional British Secret Service (created by Ian Fleming), who is always able to solve his cases, unlike our own authorities who can never seem to unravel any mystery (up till today, we still do not know who killed Dele Giwa, Funso Williams and Bola Ige).
So many questions arise from Mainagate. Who are the alleged Pension Thieves? Where is the N282 billion Maina recovered? How did the allegation of fraud against Maina arise? Has the allegation been investigated? Was Maina really framed? Did anyone shoot at Maina’s car and try to kill him? Was it because Maina’s life was in danger that he escaped to Dubai or was it to escape prosecution? The properties that some claim belong to Maina, do they actually belong to him (after all, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC has recently denied ownership of foreign properties which he is accused of owning)? If the properties are found to be Maina’s, how was he able to purchase them? Did he come into an inheritance that enabled him to purchase the properties? Who facilitated Maina’s return to Nigeria? Who reinstated and promoted Maina? Why did the President sack Maina, if Maina is innocent as he claims, especially as the President’s Aides say that the President thinks his decisions through before he makes them? Can the President lawfully sack Maina? What is the effect of this incident on the fight against corruption? If Maina is found to be culpable, how devastating a blow will it have on the fight against corruption and the credibility of Government and the APC? If Maina is found guilty, what will happen to the agencies and government officials who were involved in Maina’s return, reinstatement and promotion? Why are government officials always quick to distance the President from actions taken which may be less than ideal, should the Head not be held accountable for what happens under his watch?
Public Service Rules
While we must await the outcome of the investigation of Mainagate, to receive the answers to most of our unanswered questions, we can address the issue of his sack, reinstatement and promotion now.
It seems that, in the first place, Maina was sacked by the former Head of Service on the instructions of former President Jonathan, for ‘absconding from duty and evading arrest’. The then Senate President, Senator David Mark, had written to the former President, requesting that Maina be dismissed, for refusing to appear before the Senate, after being summoned.
The Public Service Rules (PSR) contains the regulations and laws that guide the conduct of officers in the Public Service. Chapter 3 Section 3 of the PSR provides for misconduct and serious misconduct in the Service. Section 030301 lists less serious misconduct that can lead to termination or retirement, including immoral and unruly behaviour, dishonesty, habitual lateness to work. The list is not exhaustive. Section 030402 provides for serious acts of misconduct, which include conviction on a criminal charge (not a minor traffic or sanitary offence), absence from duty without leave, bribery and corruption, false claims against government officials, nepotism and any other form of preferential treatment. Whether serious or less than serious misconduct, the PSR provides that in all cases, acts of misconduct must be able to be investigated and proven. The ultimate penalty for serious misconduct is dismissal from the Public Service (Section 030407). There are other provisions in the PSR for other types of discipline like demotion and suspension.
To the best of our knowledge, the allegations against Maina have not been proven. If indeed, Maina’s life was in danger, then he had good reason to abscond. Knowing his reason for absconding, is key, as if it was to preserve his life, he cannot be said to have abandoned his duties per se. After all, we all know that self-preservation is the first law of nature. Even though the list of misconduct is not exhaustive, evading arrest is not one of the improper conduct that is listed in the PSR, conviction is. Failure to appear before the Senate when summoned, does not also seem to be one of the infractions that merits dismissal under the PSR.
Section 11(1)(b) of Part 1 Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2010)(1999 Constitution) gives the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) the power to discipline and dismiss public officers, in this case, without prejudice to the powers vested in the President. Section 030102 contained in Section 6 to the Schedule to the PSR, gives power to dismiss officers in the Public Service to the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC).
Some have argued that, Section 5(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution which vests the Executive Powers of the Federation in the President, and allows him to exercise them either directly or through other government officials, also permits the President to dismiss public officers.
In both cases, Maina’s sack did not go via the FCSC route, but the Presidential one; in the case of President Jonathan, he exercised his executive power through the Head of Service, and in the case of President Buhari, he exercised his executive power directly. It is unclear whether the lists of misconduct, investigation and proof thereof, leading to dismissal as laid out in the PSR come into play when the executive power is exercised, or whether the President is allowed to just wake up on the wrong side of his bed, hate your face and sack you.
Chapter 2 Section 7 020701-(a) of the PSR provides thus: “Except where powers of appointment or promotion have been delegated, no promotion shall become effective until they have been approved by the Federal Civil Service Commission”. Section 11(1)(a) of Part 1 Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution also gives the FCSC power to appoint persons to offices in the Federal Civil Service. On the recommendation of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Senior Staff Committee of the Ministry of Interior, the FCSC approved the reinstatement of Maina. The Head of Service claims that she did not approve of this decision, and therefore, never communicated the FCSC’s approval to Maina or approved his posting to Ministry of Interior. She also claimed to have briefed the President about the implication of reinstating Maina, and the effect it would have on the fight against corruption
The bottom line is that, the whole saga stinks to high heaven. Whether it is Maina that is guilty of wrongdoing, and was still reabsorbed into the system by those that are meant to be spearheading the fight against corruption, or Maina was framed by other government officials and is innocent, or the President had knowledge of Maina’s return and the other goings on, and only sacked him because he was constrained to do so because of the outcry, whichever way, it is a monumental embarrassment to Nigeria.