President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to announce his response nearly 48 hours after receiving a report on the controversial reinstatement of Abdulrsheed Maina, the former civil servant wanted for alleged corruption.
The report was submitted to the president’s office on Monday few hours after Mr. Buhari instructed the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, to do so, presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, confirmed.
But by Wednesday evening, a decision was still awaited by many Nigerians anxious to know the president’s response to a scandal many see as a litmus test for his administration’s anti-corruption sincerity.
Mr. Adesina told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday he had no comment on the development as of the time.
The only media statement emanating from the presidency on Tuesday was one conveying Mr. Buhari’s advice to West African neighbour countries to be cautious about the planned introduction of a common currency.
The president made the call in Niamey, Niger, in a speech at the 4th meeting of the Presidential Task Force on the ECOWAS Currency Programme.
Back home, the secret recall of Mr. Maina to the civil service, a plot apparently masterminded by the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami and the Interior Minister, Abdurahman Dambazau, continued to spark outrage, with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, delivering an unprecedented public rebuke of a scandal considered by many as the administration’s most brazen yet.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have launched separate investigations, and lawmakers have called for sanctions against those responsible.
Mr. Maina is accused of using fake workers’ names to steal billions of naira of federal pension funds. He denies the allegation, but has since 2013 refused to submit himself to investigation.
Despite his denials, investigators say they have traced expensive upmarket properties in Abuja to the former civil servant.
Mr. Maina, a former deputy director in the interior ministry, fled Nigeria for years after being declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. His reinstatement was exposed by PREMIUM TIMES, prompting a presidential directive he be immediately disengaged.
In a statement Monday, Mr. Buhari demanded “a full report of the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior” to be delivered to his office before close of work that day.
Since receiving the report, the presidency has not stated its content nor announced its decision, amid growing calls for sanctions against those responsible for Mr. Maina’s recall.
When contacted on Tuesday night, Mr. Adesina simply said, “No comment on this issue for now.”
“The apparent next step therefore is to do away with ministers and aides who have been implicated in previous, and the most recent attempts to undermine anti-graft efforts,” said Ibrahim Zikrullahi, the Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education, in a statement.
“For us, there is no better time to dissolve the current lacklustre cabinet and reconstitute it than now,” he added.
The group said the administration must project the force of moral example by immediately ending its “strange dithering” on this case, and others involving the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke.
“For the umpteenth time, CHRICED must make it clear that it is no longer tenable that months after the report of that committee was submitted, the President is yet to take action on it, thereby exposing the anti-corruption programme to ridicule and credibility crisis.”
Another group, the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria, on Wednesday also demanded the resignation of Mr. Malami over what it described as “his less- than- impressive role in the reinstatement of the fugitive – Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina to the civil service”.
In a statement, the groups’ national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, called for a comprehensive probe of the case.