There is confusion in the Ministry of Interior concerning the resumption of wanted chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pensions Reforms, Abdurrasheed Maina, who has been reinstated into the Federal Civil Service and promoted to the post of Director.
Maina’s reinstatement and promotion was shrouded in secrecy until the news broke on some online news sites.
Investigations by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that there is a sense of shock among senior officials in the ministry who were taken aback by the news.
Senior officials who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday under anonymity said they were surprised by the news and that upon enquiries were informed that Maina was reinstated as a result of a court order.
However, investigations by the Daily Trust on Sunday showed that there was no such court order but rather the reinstatement was done “administratively” as Maina’s lawyer, Danjuma Ayeye confirmed to our reporter.
In 2013, Maina was declared wanted by the Nigeria Police over alleged misappropriation of N195 billion pension funds.
Maina filed a fundamental rights enforcement application before the Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging the warrant of arrest issued against him, which was decided in his favour as the court set aside the warrant.
The suit was brought against the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then Senate President David Mark, Clerk of the Senate, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration, Inspector General of Police, Senator Aloysius Etuk of the Committee on Establishment and Public Service, and Senator Kabiru Gaya of Senate Committee State and Local Government Administration.
In May 2016, Maina again went to a Magistrate Court in Wuse 2, Abuja, to challenge a warrant of arrest issued to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which the court granted and set aside the warrant.
Maina then filed another action before the National Industrial Court in Abuja challenging alleged wrongful termination of his appointment.
Those listed as defendants are: the Head of Service of the Federation(HOSF); the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC); Minister of Interior, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Mr Ayeye told Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday that the reinstatement was done at the administrative level, explaining that it informed the decision to apply to withdraw the matter from court.
“While pursuing the administrative procedure, you have to withdraw the matter in court and that is what we have done through the ‘notice of withdrawal’ we filed in the court,” the lawyer said.
“He is not before any court for any criminal trial. He is not a fugitive; he is a free man,” he added. However, checks on the EFCC website still has Maina advertised as a wanted man.
When contacted, the Director of Press, Ministry of Interior, Willie Bassey said he was not aware of Abdulrasheed Maina’s resumption.
He said he was out of Abuja and was not introduced to Maina before his departure from office last week Friday.
Bassey said, “You know I am a director and when another director is brought in, the Permanent Secretary will call a meeting of all directors to introduce the new person.
“This, the Permanent Secretary has not done. So, I can’t confirm anything now until Monday. I will need to find out from the Permanent Secretary myself.”
He added that the ministry may call a press conference on Monday to inform journalists if truly, Maina has been returned to the ministry.
However, Daily Trust on Sunday findings show that Maina has in fact resumed, as confirmed by senior officials in the ministry and sources close to the former pension boss. One of the sources said she had put a call across to him and “he confirmed to me that he is back.”
The former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) is said to be in Kano presently but will be in the office on Monday.
Another source, who pleaded anonymity, said there were jubilations in the ministry when Maina resumed.
“Staff were celebrating immediately the news filtered in,” the source said. “He even shared money to those who visited him in the office.”
Another official at the Office of the Head of Service all but confirmed the reports when he said that Maina has always been a civil servant because no directive has been issued to the contrary.
“Maina was never suspended, sacked or retired from the Federal Civil Service so as far as we are concerned, he still remains a civil servant,” the source said.
Maina absconded his post when he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over pension scheme fraud amounting to N195 billion, for which he was indicted by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration in 2012.
He had been drafted in 2010 to help sanitize the system and ended up being accused of fraud and was arraigned in court in July 2015 alongside former head of the Federal Civil Service Stephen Orosanye and two others. By that time, Maina had absconded and was not in court to submit his plea.
The case made the front page of national dailies and caused a lot of outrage among Nigerians.
However, not long after the ouster of President Jonathan in 2015, members of Maina’s defunct team held a press conference in which they announced their desire to work with President Muhammad Buhari whose anti-corruption stance they felt would be more conducive for them.
Another source who is also a staff of the ministry said, “Maina is a good man and we are happy he is here now. He was just being set up by those corrupt people who have been embezzling funds meant for pensioners before his arrival. Now, he has been returned to the civil service.”