A letter written by former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, to Senate President, Bukola Saraki, urging the Senate to give him an opportunity of fair hearing has surfaced.
The letter dated June 19, 2015, one week after the inauguration of the present Senate, indicated that the fugitive ex-pension boss returned to the country shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration on May 29, 2015.
PREMIUM TIMES on October 20 broke the news of Mr. Maina’s secret recall and promotion in the Ministry of Interior.
Following the public criticism that followed the clandestine reinstatement, President Muhammadu Buhari on October 23 ordered “immediate disengagement of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina from service.”
A day after, October 24, the Senate, drafted the chairmen and vice- chairman of committees on Interior, Judiciary, Anti-corruption and Public Service Establishment to “determine the circumstances surrounding Maina’s return to the country and how he was reinstated to the service and got promoted to the post of Director after dismissal.”
Mr. Maina has since gone back into hiding and is still wanted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, who accuse him of mismanaging about N2 billion pension funds.
HOW SENATE GOT INVOLVED IN MAINA’S CASE
Mr. Maina entered the black book of the Nigerian Senate in 2012 when he ignored several summons by the Joint Senate Committee on Establishment, Pubic Service and Local Governments- headed by Aloysius Etuk.
The consistent refusal of Mr. Maina to honour several invitations by the committee to appear and explain his role in the alleged N195 billion pension fraud forced the Senate to mandate the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, to compel it to appear.
However, despite a call on the IGP, several threats, and a warrant of arrest on Mr. Maina, he refused to show up. Instead, he sued the Senate and the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and thereafter went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police.
Mr. Maina’s misdemeanour incurred the wrath of the 7th Senate which prevailed upon then President Goodluck Jonathan to either choose between the red chamber or Maina.
“The executive now has to choose between Maina and the Senate, that is the bottom line,” then Senate President David Mark said. “If they chose to go along with Maina, fine, we will react accordingly. And to extend the hand of friendship is the correct thing to do because we must work together. There is no running away from that one. It is a test case. If Maina remains, then the Senate will react appropriately and I don’t think we are short of ideas nor are we short of what we want to do. We know the step to take.”
Mr. Maina was eventually dismissed from civil service for “absconding from duty’’ in 2013.
MAINA’S EXPLOSIVE LETTER TO SARAKI
Mr. Maina’s letter titled “Pension Reform Task Team: Appeal for Review of Investigation Probe by Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service and States and Local Government Administration 2011-2013,” was addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Dated June 19, 2015, the letter sought a review of his case and fingered the Senate committee constituted to investigate him of favouring “pension thieves.”
Mr. Maina claimed in the letter which leaked to journalists in Kaduna on Friday, a copy of which was published by The Nation newspaper, that his team helped the country save about N1.6 trillion from pension thieves.
He noted that his team’s effort led to the arrest of 46 people and firms involved in looting pension funds. He said the 46 of them are currently been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
“We, members of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), wish to use this medium to apologise for our little late response to reaching back to you,” Mr. Maina said.
“We had to put the issues together and source for appurtenant materials. We appreciate your understanding sir.
“As a refresher, the PRTT was inaugurated on 10th June, 2010 by the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, with a clear mandate to restructure the Head of Service Pension Office, Police Pension Office, among others.
“We did our utmost with precision and national interests as our guiding principles. The PRTT took off effectively by January 2011.
“We used financial intelligence skills to achieve ground-breaking achievements in our assignment.
“We recovered and saved cash and properties worth over N1.6 trillion.
“Our efforts led to the arrest and prosecution of 46 persons/firms involved in looting of pension funds which we handed to the EFCC. The trials are still ongoing.
“As it is, there is a leakage of N256 billion monthly from the current IPPIS, which needs to be blocked urgently.
“We are also aware of some government hidden accounts which needs to be mopped up.
“We can be used to engage any department of government in sanitising the financial workflow to avoid loose ends that remain susceptible to leakages.
“Based on the revelations of massive/monumental fraud and outright stealing of pension funds, which was brought to public attention by the PRTT, the 7th National Assembly by resolution dated 2nd November, 2011 mandated its Committee on Establishment and Public Service, State and Local Government Administration, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the management and administration of pension funds in Nigeria.
“There was general expectation that the various dimensions of irregularities associated with the management of pension funds in Nigeria would come to an end as a consequence of the investigations being conducted by the Senate Joint Committee.”
Mr. Maina alleged that the committee saddled with the responsibility of investigating the matter ended up favouring those involved in embezzling pension funds.
He noted that the biometric system adopted by the team exposed 73,000 ghost pensioners in the office of the Head of Service alone.
The letter reads further: “Some pensioners got backlog of about 30 years paid into their accounts. All payments were ordered under the signature of the Head of Service monthly.
“However, the PRTT regrets to observe that rather than achieving the objectives of the spirit and its mandate, which in our view includes but not limited to identifying those responsible for the culture of fraud that characterised the system and bringing them to book, the Senate Joint Committee ended up creating more problems than solutions to the endemic corruption and fraud prevailing in the system.
“In this context, the PRTT, wishes to state without any fear of contradiction that the Senate Joint Committee’s Report submitted, which was subsequently adopted by the 7th Senate but now quashed by the Federal High Court judgement of the 13th March 2013 in favour of the PRTT’s Chairman, not only failed to address the issues at stake but succeeded in misleading the Senate and the generality of Nigerians about the true picture, nature and scope of problems militating against the efficient management and administration of Pension Funds in Nigeria. Copy of said judgement attached and marked “ANNEXURE1”.”
“Today, it (pension) is worse with the Police pension office where daily so much millions are taken out of pension funds in that office. We have evidence to substantiate this.”
Mr. Maina in the letter sought an opportunity to present his own side of the pension fraud story.
“As we write to you, Abdulrasheed A. Maina has been dismissed from Civil Service for being absent for three days while his life was under threat following gunshot attack on his person in front of Head of Civil Service Office where his office was located in February, 2013. Attached are copies of letters from Nigeria Police Force. “ANNEXURE 3 (a) and (b)”.
“The Task Team and its leadership were not only denied the opportunity for a fair hearing before being pronounced guilty of all manner of allegations, but even where the Task Team appeared before the Committee, salient facts related to the issues at stake were deliberately ignored.”
He added that an appeal to the 7th Senate for fair hearing was ignored. As a result, the PRTT approached the Federal High Court Abuja in suit number: FH/ABJ/CS/65/2013. He said the court ruled in his favour on March 13, 2013 noting that till date, the Senate had yet to appeal the judgment of the court.
“We are by this letter appealing to the Federal Government in the spirit of CHANGE which the country is witnessing, and the stand of government on corruption, that opportunity be given to us to present the truth about pension management in Nigeria.”
The Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President, Yusuf Olaniyonu, said on Saturday evening that he could not confirm receipt of the letter.
Mr. Olaniyonu had, however, told The Nation Newspapers that the present Senate leadership ignored the letter because the last Senate had taken a decision on the pension matter and there was no reasonable ground to review it.
On Saturday, however, he told PREMIUM TIMES he was not sure the letter exists.
“I don’t even know about the existence of that letter. It’s not something I can say we have. I cannot confirm that the Senate President received such letter,” he said in a telephone interview.
“The Senate President does not know him. He has not seen the Senate President before. So, if you are talking about a letter, except we check and see that that letter actually came in.”
He also questioned the date of the said letter suggesting that it may not exist since the 8th Senate was inaugurated June 2015, the month the letter was reportedly submitted.
The 8th Senate was actually inaugurated on June 9, 2015, a week before the letter was written.
“We are talking about a letter of June 2015. That was when he came in as Senate President.”