By Chukwudi Nweje The Nigerian Third Force Movement has rolled out its action plan for the 2019 general elections. Prominent members of the group include former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, Tafawa Balewa, and Prof. Pat Utomi….
Among the shocking chapters in Nigeria’s interminable corruption chronicles, the latest addition on the surreptitious reinstatement to the Federal Civil Service of Abdulrasheed Maina takes the cake. The disgraced former Assistant Director and Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team was declared wanted by the EFCC over a N195 billion fraud case in 2015, and had been on the run from the law for some years.
The reemergence of the man in the civil service, complete with a double “promotion” to the rank of a Director in the Federal Ministry of Interior, is nothing but magic. It is, indeed, “government magic”, as the late afro-beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, would have described it.
Sadly, Nigeria has never been short of sick tales such as this. Attempting a rehash of the endless “magics” Nigerians have been entertained with over the years will only detract attention from this latest Maina wonder, so I will concentrate on the audacity of his re-aborption into service by a ghost Head of Service (HoS), since the authentic HoS, Mrs. Winifred Eyo-Ita, has denied writing his reinstatement letter.
The gravity of this failed attempt to smuggle Maina back to the top echelons of the public service can, perhaps, only be appreciated through the promptitude with which the usually reticent and “unshockable” President Muhammadu Buhari overruled his reinstatement and ordered his immediate “disengagement” from service.
This attempted “whitewashing” of Maina, which came to light through online reports, could not but shock many Nigerians who had followed the story of how he was under public investigation for fraud, before he left the country. He was the chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team which was charged with the investigation into the misappropriation of pension funds running into several billions of naira but he, himself, ended up in the belly of the corruption investigation, as he was believed to have also soiled his hands and fled before the investigation was concluded, abandoning his position in the civil service and forcing the nation’s anti-corruption agency, the EFCC, to declare him wanted shortly after the election of Buhari in 2015, while Interpol did the same early in 2016.
The nearly-successful bid to return Maina to the civil service signposts the manner in which some Nigerians in positions of authority breach the rule of law with impunity. How on earth could anyone seek to reengage a man who had been charged alongside three other persons for a N2 billion fraud, but chose to flee the country, and had been declared wanted by the authorities, in the civil service? This brazen reinstatement was done in spite of the fact that the Goodluck Jonathan administration had ordered that he be sacked by the HoS for abandoning his job.
President Buhari did exactly what was of expected of him when he ordered the doors of the civil service shut against Maina. But, he still has the task of unraveling how he got posted to the Ministry of Interior as a Director in the first place. He also has to determine how he was able to return to the country and be walking about freely as to contemplate staging a comeback into the civil service when his name his clearly on the wanted list of criminal suspects on the website of the EFCC.
The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, also has some explanations to make on how someone who had been ordered to be relieved of his position in the civil service over two years ago got promoted and seconded to his ministry, while so many hardworking and faithful officials of the ministry were not considered fit for the position. The HoS has denied posting Maina to the Interior Ministry, so, where did his deployment letter emanate from? Certainly, the Interior Ministry which considered him fit to fill its vacancy for a director would know where his letter emanated from, and should apprise the nation of the information.
Buhari must get to the bottom of this saga. For too long, he has been too quiet on the many corruption cases in the country. The recent $25bn case at the NNPC and the circumvention of the oil agency’s board by its Managing Director, Maikanti Baru, was never resolved to the satisfaction of many Nigerians. So also, the cases involving the N100 million contract given to companies related to the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the billions of naira recovered from an apartment in Ikoyi, in which the boss of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayo Oke, was involved. The results of the investigations of these cases are lying on his table.
The Maina magic is, indeed, a test case for Buhari and the EFCC. It is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their firm resolve to do the right thing and arrest the impunity of the cabal which is believed in many quarters to have seized control of this government.