The House of Representatives on Thursday gave the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, seven days to produce a report of his investigation into how letters initiating the recall of the former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, emanated from his office.
An ad hoc committee of the House is probing the circumstances surrounding the reinstatement of Maina after he had been dismissed from service in 2013 and later declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged pension fraud.
The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kano State, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, also summoned the Special Adviser to the AGF, Mr. Kehinde Ogini, to appear before it.
It was gathered that the committee was working on a report which indicated that the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Ministry of Interior, acted on directives from Malami’s office to conclude the recall of Maina into the service on September 28, 2017.
But, having denied that he personally authored any of the letters on Maina’s recall, the committee asked what actions he took to find out how letters bearing his seal left his office without his knowledge.
In his response, the AGF said he had directed the Permanent Secretary in his ministry to set up a committee to investigate the matter.
He said, “The letter dated October 5 was never signed by me. Maina’s case, up to that point, was still work in progress and I wrote KIV on it.
“Again, the letter of February 21 could not have emanated from my office because it did not follow procedure. The matter is under investigation.”
In its reaction to the AGF’s statement, the committee noted that Malami’s internal investigation into the letters and the report of the probe would resolve many issues.
Madaki, who spoke on behalf of the committee, said, “Your report should get to us within one week. Whatever you are doing, complete it within one week and report back to us.”
Malami had claimed that his special adviser and line officers in the ministry had kept writing for his approval to reinstate Maina.
He added that he never gave a final approval at any point.
In addition to its request for the report of the investigation, the committee summoned Ogini and all the administrative officers in the AGF’s office to explain their roles in Maina’s illegal recall.
Meanwhile, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, told the committee that Maina had three passports.
He said the passports were an official passport, a standard Nigerian passport and an American passport.
He also revealed that Maina was both a Nigerian and an American citizen.
Babandede told the panel that on September 2, 2013, Maina was prevented from travelling through the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, because he was on the wanted list of the EFCC.
He added that the EFCC later wrote the service on December 1, 2015, removing Maina’s name from the list.
“We now have him on our watch list after Mr. President (Muhammadu Buhari) directed recently that he should be dismissed from service.
“But since 2013, our system has not shown that Maina travelled through any of our airports.”
He, however, admitted that it was possible that Maina used unmanned border posts, which was “illegal and an offence.”
The CG’s revelation made the committee to seek explanation from the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Maina bought $2m house in cash
Magu denied that he knew anything about the letter removing Maina from its wanted list.
He said the letter, dated December 1, 2015, was before his assumption of office as the EFCC acting boss.
“This is the first time in my life that I have seen this letter. But it will be investigated,” Magu said.
Magu also denied the allegation that pension assets recovered by Maina and handed over to the EFCC were stolen by the anti-graft agency.
He said no asset was collected from the task force, adding that assets recovered from pension fraud suspects were products of independent investigations by the EFCC.
Magu explained that the assets were recovered from suspects involved in the police pension fraud and persons linked to the fraud in the office of the HoS.
He added, “Maina did not hand over a single asset to the commission.
“Let him give details of the assets, the dates and officials who received them.”
Magu said some funds and property were traced to Maina, which was why he was declared wanted.
He said N2.7bn was found in Maina’s bank account, while his son made a turnover of N1.5bn in one year.
He added, “Maina ran his illegal deals in hard currencies, paying $2m in cash one day to buy a house in Abuja. Maina remains a wanted person.”
The Director-General of the Department of State Service, Mr. Lawal Daura, said it was true that the AGF met with Maina in Dubai in 2016, adding that he met with Maina in company with the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.).
On the reinstatement of Maina, Daura said, “The service played no role in his reinstatement.”
‘Maina was last paid February 2013’
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, have debunked the claim by Maina’s lawyer that he was paid salary up till last month.
Maina’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Katu, had told the committee last week that his client was still in service and was regularly paid his salary.
But, Adeosun and Idris, while testifying before the committee, denied the claim.
Idris explained that the civil service operated an automated payment system which would have shown such.
He said, “From our records, Maina received his last salary in February 2013. In March 2013, he was removed from the payroll.
“I don’t know from where he received the salary. There is nobody with the name Abdulrasheed Maina in our system.”
The finance minister confirmed the Idris’ statement.
When the committee asked the lawyer to produce evidence of the salary his client collected, he could not tender any document.
Katu, however, pointed out that since Maina went to court and got judgments in his favour, he had been returned to the service from the date he was “purported” to have been dismissed in 2013.
Interior ministry’s PS takes responsibility
The Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Abubakar Magaji, traded words after Magaji insisted that he acted on a letter from Oyo-Ita in recalling Maina.
But, the HoS was able to establish that Magaji acted on a letter from the Federal Civil Service Commission without getting a formal directive from her office.
The permanent secretary later said his office acted on the FCSC letter because it believed that it was the body constitutionally empowered to employ and promote civil servants.
“I take responsibility for the administrative error by the Ministry of Interior in the whole matter,” he said.