Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have condemned the Federal Government’s decision to reinstate former Chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service
The groups said the reinstatement has put in doubt the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari.
PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how Mr. Maina was secretly reinstated into the Ministry of Interior despite being wanted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, over a multi-billion naira pension fraud since 2013.
The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, in a statement on Sunday exonerated himself from the reinstatement.
He said Mr. Maina was deployed to his agency to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of the director heading the human resources department of the ministry.
He blamed Mr. Maina’s recall on the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission.
This development has angered civil society organisations who, in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, questioned the potency of the anti-corruption mantra of the current administration.
The coordinator, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said the reinstatement signifies 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,” he said on a telephone interview. “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.”
Mr. Suraju accused the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, as the architect of the reinstatement of a civil servant who has “disobeyed the three arms of government.”
“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 behind the doors but surreptitiously admit him back 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.”
He added that the “EFCC should immediately declare him wanted and they should go to any length to ensure that he is arrested and brought to court for further prosecution.”
Similarly, Chido Onumah, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, 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.”
Mr. Onumah asked the presidency to answer questions that have arisen from the reinstatement while charging EFCC to swing to action on the information at hand.
“The EFCC has to follow up on this case,” he said. “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.”
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre asked the EFCC to lay the facts on the issue he described as “highly controversial.”
Mr. Musa said he is sceptical about the sincerity of members of the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration who looked into the case in 2013.
“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.”
The presidency is yet to comment on Mr. Maina’s reinstatement.