The controversy over the recall of former head of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform, Abdulrasheed Maina, into service rumbled on on Thursday.
At a hearing by the adhoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to probe the matter, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, and the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Joseph Akande, frontally controverted the account by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, of his role in the matter.
Official correspondences published by PREMIUM TIMES show that Mr. Malami initiated and authorised the recall.
Yet, on Thursday, asked by the committee to give a direct answer as to whether the letter requesting Mr. Maina’s reinstatement came from him, Mr. Malami claimed it did not.
He said the last letter he “remembered” to have written on the issue was dated January 19, 2017 and was meant to bring attention to all that was happening to Mr Maina.
He then claimed that Mr. Maina had not resumed when PREMIUM TIMES exposed his recall.
Mr. Malami said: “As at 5th October, Maina’s issue in my office was a work in progress and not yet concluded and that can be associated with previous dealings in February, April and October so the letter giving specific and clear directives couldn’t have genuinely emanated from my office.”
I received letters from Attorney General — Oyo-Ita
However, the Head of Service, Mrs. Oyo-Ita, faulted the account of Mr. Malami as she stated that she received letters from the office of the Attorney General demanding the reinstatement of Mr. Maina.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita said Mr. Malami’s office wrote a series of letters to her office to press for the reinstatement.
She said: “Maina, from records available to us, was dismissed in the year 2013 from the Federal Civil Service for absconding from duty.
“From the beginning of this year, we started receiving series of letters written by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, addressed to the chairman Federal Civil Service Commission and copied to the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
“As those letters came in, the Federal Civil Service Commission wrote to my office, directing us to request the Ministry of Interior to set up a Senior Staff Committee to review the directives from the Attorney General.
She expressed surprise that Mr. Maina was finally reinstated without the assent of her office.
“When I got hold of that letter of reinstatement, I held on to the letter because I needed more clarification of that letter, so I was surprised to find out that without officially conveying the letter of his reinstatement or any letter of posting whatsoever, the said Mr Maina was absorbed into the Ministry of Interior which I learnt through the media.
“I want to place on record here that I still have the original letters here with me. My office will never convey such reinstatement letter to Mr. Maina, so there is no way he could have resumed work at the Ministry of Interior if he had not being officially notified of doing so by the office of the head of civil service commission.”
We received 3 letters from AGF before approving Maina’s reinstatement – FCSC
The Chairman of the Federal Civil Service, Mr. Akande, also told the committee that the letter requesting the reinstatement of Mr. Maina emanated from the office of the AGF.
“Maina was declared absent from duty in 2013 and attempt to locate him proved abortive so the ministry informed the head of service and the head of service informed the commission and ordered that a query be given to Maina to explain why he has been absent from duty.
“Ministry of Interior gave the query and set up an investigative panel to hear the other side of the case but they were unable to locate him.
“When Maina was unable to respond to the query or attend the investigative panel, the SSC (Senior Staff Committee) of the ministry was conveyed to consider his case and after discussion and deliberation, the SSC recommended that Maina be dismissed. When the letter was sent to us from the HoS, we sat on it and the commission agreed with the recommendation and Maina was so dismissed.
“Sometimes in 2014, Maina wrote to the commission appealing that they reconsider their decision and that they review the dismissal given to him.”
Mr. Akande said the commission started receiving letters from the AGF from early 2017.
“In 2017, the commission received a letter from the Attorney General dated 19th January 22017 demanding the reinstatement of Maina.
“Again, the AGF sent another letter to us 27th April. The third letter informing us that he is the chief legal officer of the country and that the basis of our dismissing Maina cannot stand because judge of High Court in Abuja has paused the warrant of arrest and therefore directed.
“The ministry of interior met through their SSC and recommended that he be reinstated. When we looked at it, we approved that he be reinstated.”
No officer assigned to guard Maina – Police
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police denied assigning officers to guard Mr. Maina, at any period of his service as head of the presidential task force on pension reform.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Research and Planning, Valentine Ntomchukwu, told the committee that the force had no record of any police officer protecting the ex-pension boss at any time.
Ayo Omidiran, Osun-APC, questioned Mr. Ntomchukwu on the role of Nigeria Police in providing security for the fugitive civil servant.
“We all know that he had not less than 10 police officers guarding him during that time (When he was declared wanted). So, to say that police have nothing to do with him is not correct sir,” Mrs. Omidiran questioned after the DIGP read a report on the role of the Police Force in relation to Maina.
In response, Mr. Ntomchukwu said the police had no record of any officer attached to Maina.
“We don’t have any record of any police officer guarding Maina. There is no record of that. If there is any record or the names of any officer attached to Maina, please let us know.
“Secondly, when there is a warrant, Police acted on the warrant issued for the arrest of Mr. Maina from the Senate and we declared him wanted based on the warrant. When we could not find him on the address by the agencies that went to look for him, we now declared him wanted. And in all the processes with the INTERPOL, there was a red alert. A red alert means that he is declared wanted. And so, we are still looking for him,” Mr. Ntomchukwu replied to another question on what the police have done in tracking down Maina.
Senate committee gives damning update
In a separate but dramatic development, the Senate committee investigating the same matter reported that the task force headed by Mr. Maina recovered about 222 houses and investments from pension suspects in Abuja and other major cities across the country, and asked for more time to complete its probe.
The chairman of the committee, Emmanuel Paulker (PDP-Delta), said the committee was unable to tender a report due to complexities involved in the issue and fresh revelations which emanated in the course of the investigation.
Mr. Paulker said the committee discovered some issues which are beyond its mandate and thus, requires the leave of the Senate to cover them.
“During the investigation, certain issues arose that this mandate of the senate did not cover. Mr. President, suffice it to note that it was revealed during the investigation that some estate properties were recovered during the Maina investigation into pension fraud.
“And since this mandate did not cover that aspect of resolution, I want to come under order 42 and 52 so that the standing committee can now come up with a motion that Senate can now empower them to expand her mandate to cover this.”
Mr. Paulker said the presidential task force headed by Mr. Maina recovered about 222 houses and investments from pension suspects in Abuja and other major cities across the country.
“The reform Maina led recovered assets from pension looters working with the EFCC, ICPC, DSS, police and paramilitary agency staff and then EFCC took charge of the recovered assets,” he said.
“The total recovered assets seized from allegedly pension thieves were reported to have been allegedly shared by some interest groups. The committee equally received a petition in respect of the recovered properties by the task force.”
The Senate empowered the committee to further investigate the circumstances surrounding the properties recovered by the defunct pension task force and report in four weeks.
The Senate also mandated the committee to report its findings on circumstances surrounding his reinstatement and promotion in two weeks.