N2bn fraud: Dambazau tells Maina to surrender to EFCC



Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, has asked the wanted former chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, to report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Dambazau’s directive is contained in an official correspondence sent to the EFCC by the ministry.

It was learnt that the letter was in response to a letter written to the ministry asking that it makes Maina available for questioning.
Sources within the EFCC said the usual procedure for inviting senior government officials is to write to the head of the ministry or agency where the person works.

A source at the EFCC said, “The Ministry of Interior sent a letter to the EFCC on Tuesday informing the commission that it had mandated Maina to make himself available for questioning at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja.

“So far, Maina has not made himself available and we are still looking for him.”

The suspect has also not reported to work since the close of work last Friday.
Also speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said that operatives were still on Maina’s trail.

He said, “We are still on his trail and he has not yet been arrested.”

An EFCC source revealed that the commission had limited its search to the Kaduna/Kano area.

Dambazau spoke even as Maina’s lawyer, Esther Uzoma, said on the telephone on Tuesday that she did not know his whereabouts.

When asked if she would cooperate with the authorities to locate him, Uzoma refused to speak further.

Uzoma, who is a human rights activist, said, “I don’t know where he (Maina) is and I cannot speak further.”

Senate, House begin probe

Meanwhile, the Senate and House of Representatives have ordered separate investigations into the circumstances surrounding the reinstatement and subsequent promotion of Maina.

Pursuant to this, the Senate on Tuesday set up an ad hoc committee to investigate Maina’s reinstatement as a civil servant and subsequent promotion.

The Senate’s decision followed the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Isa Misau.

In his motion, Misau noted that it was disheartening that an individual, who had been on the wanted list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for fraud-related offences, could be re-absorbed into the public service.

Misau said, “When the person left, he left as assistant director; but when he was coming back, he was given the position of a director, not even a deputy director. And this person who is on the wanted list, when he came back, people saw policemen attached to him.

“I don’t understand why a government that is always talking about fighting corruption and the same people who are close to the President are covering people who are highly corrupt in the society.”

The lawmaker recalled that the 7th Senate investigated Maina and he was declared wanted.

“I think in a government where we are preaching that the right thing be done, it is a big embarrassment for this government. We need the Senate to investigate this matter and find out how this person came back, how security men were attached to him and did not arrest him.

“I think it is unfortunate. For me, it is only the President who is talking about anti-corruption; people surrounding Mr. President are the ones giving cover and shelter to corrupt individuals.”

Senators took turns to condemn the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN). The Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, said, “Those charges (against Maina) remain unanswered but tragically, not only did he return, he returned to an elevated position. It is an insult to all the civil servants who were doing their jobs diligently during those years Maina ran away.”

Adeyeye, who is a member of the ruling APC, described the development as “a sad moment.”

He said, “We cannot be saying we want to fight corruption and then we allow this kind of ‘the more you look, the less you see.

“What is sure is that certain people in the Executive are determined to make this President fail. Every member of my party and every patriot who is here must ensure this President does not fail. Whoever is responsible for this terrible decision must account for it.”

Adeyeye recalled the Maina issue was extensively debated in the 7th Senate, saying, “It got to an extent that the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, actually gave the then President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the option to choose between loyalty to Maina and respect for the Constitution and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“It got too bad because at that time we were alarmed that a (Grade) Level 14 officer had more than 25 policemen guarding him day and night. It got so bad that every time the then President travelled, a Level 14 officer was always in the front roll even though he had nothing to do with any area that had to do with protocol.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Senator Attai Aidoko, argued that his colleagues were looking at the symptoms and not the cause.

He said, “The person who returned Maina is the problem. The Minister of Interior said that he had no power to return Maina; that somebody else was responsible for returning Maina.

“The person, who returned Maina, as we were told, is the attorney general of the Federation. This is not the first time the attorney general would be doing something like this.”

Senator Dino Melaye, in his contribution said, “Buhari is a very good man and the man means well but he is surrounded by cankerworms and caterpillars.

“We are not talking about Maina; we should talk about the integrity of the AGF and minister of justice; that is the chief law officer. If the law officer has his hands stained, then the entire nation is higgledy-piggledy.

“Today, something happened that we have not noticed.  Two public officers quarrelled – the Inspector General of Police and Senator Isa Hamman Misau. By the interpretation of what the attorney general did (suing Misau), he chose to support one public officer against another public officer.

“When did the IGP become synonymous or equivalent to the Federal Government? Today, it is Isa Hamman Misau vs. Federal Government. IGP as an individual is not the Federal Government. By the Constitution, the AGF is supposed to prosecute only in public interest. How does an individual now constitute public interest?”

In his submission, Senator Samuel Anyanwu said Maina’s reinstatement was a discouragement to the civil service. He urged the Senate to invite Malami to address the lawmakers on how the fugitive was reinstated.

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, subsequently set up an investigative panel, made up of chairmen and vice chairmen of Senate committees on Public Service and Establishment; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption; and Internal Affairs.

While constituting the panel, Saraki said, “Honestly, we are all very disturbed and I will like the committee to work very hard and bring the report back to us on this matter that really borders on security, fight against corruption and how we manage our public service.” Saraki mandated the panel to report back in two weeks.

The House of Representatives passed a similar resolution during its plenary session on Tuesday. The House directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to immediately arrest and prosecute Maina to “serve as a deterrent to others who might have corrupt tendencies.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday ordered Maina’s sacking.

However, at a session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, the House resolved to investigate the “disappearance, reappearance and subsequent reinstatement/promotion” of Maina after the EFCC had declared him wanted.

The motion that called for the probe was moved by the Chairman, House Committee on Interior, Mr. Jagaba Adams-Jagaba.

Adams-Jagaba, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kaduna State, recalled how the Nigeria Police accused Maina of “mismanaging” over N100bn” pension funds, while the EFCC declared him wanted in 2015.

The lawmaker described as “unbelievable”, how a man declared wanted by an anti-graft agency would resume duty in the public service with a promotion.

He also recalled how Maina ignored invitations by the National Assembly to appear to answer questions in connection with the mismanaged pension funds.

Adams-Jagaba’s motion read partly, “The House recalls that Maina fled this country to the United Arab Emirates since 2013 to avoid arrest and prosecution.

“The House also recalls that he was formerly sacked from his position as an assistant director in the Ministry of Interior in 2013 by the administration of (former President) Goodluck Jonathan.

“The House is concerned that Maina came back from self-exile and was posted to his former ministry of interior and given double promotion from an assistant director to acting director.

“The House is aware that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed his sacking from the federal civil service with immediate effect.”

The House resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to conduct the investigation and, specifically, to “recommend strong sanctions against any person or persons, who are implicated in the scandal.”

The motion was passed in a unanimous voice vote by lawmakers at the session.

APC expresses shock

Reacting to the scandal, the ruling All Progressives Congress expressed shock.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who spoke with reporters at the APC national headquarters, in Abuja, on Tuesday, said, “We are all shocked like any other person. It is almost unbelievable that such a thing can happen; however, we are all delighted that President Buhari has taken very decisive punitive action against those that are involved.

“We are also delighted that he has ordered investigation into the circumstances that led to this individual to be reinstated into the public office.

“We believe as a party that whoever that was part of this or found to be part of this must face appropriate consequences because it is an embarrassment to the party, government and it is unacceptable.”

In response to a question on the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s committee, which investigated the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawan, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, Abdullahi said, “The President must have a reason (for staying action) and unless we know those reasons, we cannot come to conclusions that he has not acted.

HoS queries perm secs

In a related development, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, has queried two permanent secretaries over Maina’s controversial reinstatement and promotion.

Oyo-Ita, who on Monday submitted a report on the issue to the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, based on Buhari’s order was said to have in turn asked the permanent secretaries to explain their roles.

The affected permanent secretaries are those of the Ministry of Interior and the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed this to one of our correspondents on Tuesday.

Shehu said while the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior had responded to the query, the response of that of the Civil Service Commission was being expected as of the time of filing this report.
The presidential spokesman said, “The Head of Service queried the permanent secretaries of the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Ministry of Interior.
“The response of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior is in now and I think that of the commission may be turned in tonight (Tuesday) too.”
Shehu had, while confirming the receipt of Oyo-Ita’s report on Monday, indicated that the Presidency was still awaiting other reports.
“I have confirmation that the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Oyo-Ita, has brought the report on the re-engagement of Abdulrasheed Maina as directed by the President.
“This is being studied as other reports are being awaited,” he had said.

Fire AGF, others -Activists

In its reaction, a coalition of civil rights lawyers on Tuesday in Jos demanded that Malami and Dambazau ‘‘be dismissed from office with immediate effect, investigated and prosecuted for their roles in shielding an evidently corrupt individual.”
The organisation, under the aegis of Public Interest Defenders, in a statement issued by its Chairman, Pelumi Olajengbesi, said both ministers could not be said to have acted in good conscience.
Olajengbesi said, “By virtue of Section 174(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the AGF shall exercise his powers as chief law officer of the nation with particular attention to public interest, interest of justice and safety from tyranny.

“It is our firm belief that the AGF is currently acting contrary to our collective interest as a people, and it is high time he was removed from office and a more committed individual with public interest at heart be appointed.’’
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