This should be considered a week of mixed fortune for Nigeria’s governance. The eventual termination of the appointments of Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Ambassador Ayo Oke, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), sounded like an anti-climax. These are powerful men in high offices. Their fall from power should make news, and confirm the transience of earthly power. It is probably all very well that the decision to disengage them took the length of time it did, if only to minimize the impact of their descent.
The Buhari administration continues as it has always been a hands-off operation, a kind of self-driven vehicle programmed by an optimist. It returns to base no matter what happens. Quite a bit happened with Mr. Lawal and Ambassador Oke. A week earlier, Dr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team had created a sensation by his almost ‘magical’ return to the civil service such that there was a question whether the issue with government’s decision emanated from incompetence or impunity or both. One week later, it was looking like more information was needed, especially when Maina opened what sounded like a can of worms from hiding. Many Nigerians just cannot understand it.
Dr. Maina’s posters as a Borno State gubernatorial candidate are said to be everywhere. That, too, is not surprising, given the resources said to be at his disposal. It costs billions to run for governor, and in that context, therefore, Maina’s running, if confirmed, downgrades our democracy, debases our morality and demonstrates precisely why corruption is a self-perpetuating, malignant cancer. But then the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, tells us “I sought audience with His Excellency, Mr. President on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC (Federal Executive Council) meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A.A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this (his) administration.”
It is difficult to understand the thought process by which President Buhari accepted Dr. Maina’s return, before he later ‘unaccepted’ it. He seems to thrive in an atmosphere of disarray. That Nigerians believe in his integrity seems to serve as a licence not to organize his office, or create some coherence, or even policy consistency. So disarray or not, no cost is attached to inept decisions, insensitive and brazen acts of nepotism and startling contradictory postures.
Was the President influenced by public outrage or did he suspect that, perhaps, the whole truth is still somewhere. Maina apparently has his coterie of supporters in high and low places. From his hideout, he claims he’s been marked down for assassination and that they shot at him five times before he decided to leave the country and that he is being hounded by a cabal that has got rich on pension funds. He had survived because the past government realizing the danger he was in, provided him an armoured car.
Indeed, Maina’s former aide, Olajide Fashikun, earlier in the week, said that Maina was being hunted for stopping the theft of N5.32 billion monthly in the office of the Head of Service and the Police Pension office. Between the two offices, a leakage of N5.2 billion was plugged. “This is what civil servants stole monthly in the two offices,” and that says nothing about the other 97 pension offices in the country, he said. Maina said that N300 million is being stolen everyday and that he knew where all the money was and would help the country recover N2 trillion within three months if given the opportunity. He had unmasked them before and 43 persons were arrested and prosecuted by the EFCC while 222 houses were seized from them.
There is a trust issue in the Maina case because even the Senate Committee which tried to inquire into the pension issue came out in tatters, its report punched full of holes. And if history is anything to go by, the National Assembly seems incapable of conducting a credible and serious investigation, especially in places like the pensions schemes that are full of money. Many pensioners seem to view Maina as honest and competent and regret his ejection from the service. Indeed, Maina’s people are arguing that between his flight to Dubai and the setting up of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), N35 billion was stolen in the office of the Head of Service. Other civil servants view him with a great deal of suspicion, and they point to all his landed properties. Nigeria is in need of an investigative agency that is above suspicion, an organization that could compare in credibility with the American Federal Bureau of Investigations. The absence of such agency accounts for so much suspicion and the difficulty of bringing closure to many issues of which the Maina issue is bound to be one.
Last week, the Department of State Services (DSS) was said to be doing its level best chaperoning Maina, giving him the best VIP protection and logistical support money can buy and, eventually, spiriting him abroad. On the other hand, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which had declared Maina a wanted man two years ago, was going round Kaduna and Abuja, sticking its ‘EFCC: Keep Off’ stickers on Dr. Maina’s landed properties. Both agencies report directly to the President. The leaders of these agencies are personal friends and family members of the president. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who provided the legal cover for Maina’s reinstatement, has worked with President for over a decade. That these high state officials and agencies often work at cross-purposes is one of the riddles of the Buhari administration. Inter-agency rivalries are natural and may sometimes be understandable. They may promote healthy competition, given the right environment.
The Americans did a study of the circumstances surrounding the singular terrorist attack of 2001 and discovered that if the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been in possession of the same set of facts and information about the Arab terrorists as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the State Department’s Intelligence Unit, that calamity would have been averted. That discovery formed the basis for the creation of the National Intelligence Agency which now co-ordinates the security, and ensures that these agencies talk to each other, share vital information so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.
Yet there are incidents where too much friendship and camaraderie can be dangerous. Had the EFCC listened to Ambassador Ayo Oke when its agents found the $43.4 million in the Osborne Towers flat, the country would have lost the money.