Something about this Maina
There must be something special about this Maina, apart from his audacity and egregious impunity, to say nothing about his flamboyant life-style, that attracts otherwise sensible people to a certain doom, even perdition and the Japanese hara-kiri.
Abdulazeez Maina, an assistant director and former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, was no ordinary civil servant. When he was calling the shots in Abuja, he moved about in a convoy of about 10 vehicles and security details of 25 policemen armed to the teeth. As somebody who was saddled with the responsibility of sanitising the pension administration, he was going to step on toes of those who had found a gold mine in the pension fund management. And by his own account, he did, indeed, step on toes.
He said in some media interviews that his committee had, in no time, saved for the government 151 billion naira from three pension offices alone. Other accounts had it that from about 1976, government had released about N3.3 trillion for pension payment, money that nobody could account for, thanks to the breath taking fraud that characterised pension fund administration. The Maina committee appeared to be doing a Yeoman job including biometric capturing to get the accurate data of pensioners and reduce the monumental theft that threatened to cripple the pension business and deny the beneficiaries of their legitimate entitlements.
But as cruel fate would have it, this chest-beating hunter became the hunted. Maina too was accused of helping himself to public money, the same pensioners’ money to the tune of more than N100 billion. The Senate Committee on Pension, headed by Senator Akpan Etok in the Seventh Senate, decided to investigate the affairs of the task force. The EFCC naturally took interest in the business of the task force and the allegations of fraud against the said Maina. When the security agents could not get him into their net, they did the next best thing. The EFCC declared him wanted.
Maina escaped from the country into self exile but the EFCC kept him on its wanted list. Government took a dim view of Maina’s escapade and ordered his dismissal from service with effect from February 21, 2013. A plus for the Goodluck Jonathan administration that did not even pretend to be fighting corruption.
Then suddenly, the news broke last weekend in the media that Maina, the fugitive from justice, was back in the country with a bang. He had been reinstated and given double promotion. And as a sign of good faith, it was made to look like the President Muhammadu Buhari government that is accountable and sensitive to human rights, made sure that Maina did not lose anything. He was paid a healthy sum of N22 million being his salary arrears from the day he was forcefully separated from his job.
The news of Maina’s return and the red carpet that ushered him back to reckoning spread like the wild harmattan fire. But as of the time of writing, there is every likelihood that some people are having more than ordinary cold sweat over the Maina affairs. There has been some twist in the tale. The president and the commander-in-chief flew back from Turkey on Sunday straight into the Maina storm. And almost uncharacteristically, he started to ask questions. Thoroughly embarrassed, President Buhari ordered his immediate sack. And now some people are likely to be scratching their heads to explain the role they played in getting Maina, back to duty.
One of them is the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, whose ministry has the onerous responsibility of taking back Maina. But the minister washed his hands off the messy affairs. He was not responsible, he said, for the recall of Maina. That responsibility, he told whoever cared to know, belonged to the Office of the Head of Service. He acknowledged that Maina was posted to the ministry by the Office of the Head of Service in an acting capacity to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the director in charge of the Human Resources Department.
The buck passing and the salacious blame game did not end there because Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, the Head of Service, said she was not responsible for the posting of the embattled Maina. She has, in fact, submitted a report to the president and issued query to two permanent secretaries, one of the interior and the other of the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The buck was finally passed to Abubakar Malami, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the indefatigable custodian of justice in the Buhari administration. Photocopies of documents representing memos and directives believed to have emanated from his office are all over the newspapers to the effect that he issued the directive for Maina’s reinstatement. But not without a reason. There was a Federal High Court injunction which restrained security agencies from arresting Maina in 2013. Possibly, the Attorney General was merely doing his duty by advising the relevant agency of government to obey court orders. The minister, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, can plead his case on the side of the rule of law.
If the current trend is anything to go by, the president would review all the submissions and weigh the input of his chief law officer and may decide to rest the case. And there it might rest in peace. But for the nation that has invested so much hope in Buhari’s war against corruption, it would amount to a betrayal of hope. For President Buhari as a person and his presidency in particular that would amount to a horrendous political calamity. It will be like kissing good bye to all the current war efforts, to say nothing about an irretrievable loss in his reputation as a no-nonsense warrior with the heart of steel.
Maina, for all we care, may not be guilty of any offence except the offence of absence from duty without permission. But for all we know too, Maina was one of the ugly faces of corruption that defined the Jonathan administration. Even President Jonathan, for some curious reasons, developed a nerve of steel and decided to put the pension task force chairman on trial for alleged corruption.
Maina might not have corruptly enriched himself while in service but he is required now to clear his name. Taking to his heels to escape justice is not exactly the act of a man who has nothing to hide. Maina is reported to be nursing the ambition to become the governor of Borno State in 2019 on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the party that is supposed to be the nemesis of corruption. Someone said the real motive of the returnee fugitive was not to get back his job for keep. He only wanted his job so he could resign neatly without any baggage to enable him to pursue his political ambition unfettered.
If that was the calculation, it was not necessary. He might have tested the waters and found that corruption allegation cannot stop him from aspiring to be governor. In fact, it is a plus and an advantage because ours has become a society where honesty has ceased to be the best policy. The more crooked you are, the better. The system seems to favour those who openly advertise their moral turpitude and financial shenanigans like a divinely conferred virtue.
Maina must have also discovered that Buhari is alone in the fight against corruption. Devoid of credible and faithful allies, he might be forced, sooner than later, to give up the fight. The scramble by Buhari’s men to rehabilitate Maina and endow him with a brand new persona may just be a prelude to that grand surrender to the hydra-headed monster called corruption.
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