Thursday, October 26, 2017

Maina: The Joke Is On APC, Buhari

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
The unfolding “Mainagate” which is rocking the pretentious Muhammadu Buhari presidency is classical Nigerian drama. Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, who was accused of dipping his fingers into the pension honey pot, and fled the country in 2015, sauntered back noisily as if nothing happened.
*Abdulrasheed Maina
On July 21, 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged him, along with others, to a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud including falsified biometric contracts, which resulted in the alleged mismanagement of over N2 billion of pension funds with which he allegedly acquired choice mansions in Abuja. EFCC claimed that one of such properties is a mansion in the posh Jabi Lake area of the FCT, which he bought in June 2012 while he was still pension reforms boss, at a mindboggling sum of $2 million.
And guess what? He paid cash.
Rather than face trial, Maina fled the country and the EFCC declared him wanted on November 2, 2015.
Then, two years into the Buhari presidency, he returned, but not quietly. An Igbo adage says a child sent to steal by his father does not approach his victim’s house stealthily. He rather kicks doors open with a bang.
Rather than lie low, his posters surfaced announcing his governorship ambition in his home state of Borno come 2019. As if that was not audacious enough, he showed up at the Ministry of Interior, behind a huge mahogany desk, and wait for it, not as Assistant Director, his previous position, but acting Director in-charge of human resources department and a whopping sum of N22 million was doled out to him as arrears of his unpaid salary since he was sacked from the civil service in 2013.
For Maina, no home-coming could be sweeter and more rewarding. He was in the company of his “brethren,” a blue-blood and sacred cow, who knows the right strings to pull. And pull he did! Yet, like in every conspiracy, something went terribly wrong.
*President Buhari 

For now, nobody knows what happened and knowing the character of the Buhari presidency, nobody may know because knowing will be a huge embarrassment to the government.
But I hazard a guess. Maina’s posters may have angered or frightened some politicians who decided to put a permanent end to the brazen impunity or some senior civil servants who saw him as an arrogant usurper just remembered that he was still a fugitive and blew the whistle. The rest, to borrow a cliché, is now history.
The din of the whistle resonated loudly, thus provoking a national outrage unprecedented in the over two-year Buhari presidency and seriously called to question his and APC’s anti-corruption pretentions.
On an apparent damage control mission, the president’s garrulous Special Assistant on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, weighed in on the matter on Monday, arguing on Channels Television that no court had found Maina guilty of any offence.
“If he has not been found guilty of any offence, I do not see why some people are outraged by his purported re-absorption into the federal civil service,” he said.
But because his argument was hollow and could not extinguish the raging fire, the president was forced to personally wade in by ordering Maina’s immediate disengagement from the civil service.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the immediate disengagement from service of Mr. Abdullahi Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms," Femi Adesina, his media aide, said in a statement. The president also demanded a “full report of the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior,” from the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
The EFCC went on overdrive, dramatizing the sealing off of Maina’s Jabi mansion, while claiming it had ordered a manhunt. “Our detectives are on standby to arrest him any moment from now. We are already trailing his whereabouts. As of Sunday, he was said to have shifted base to Kaduna,” the Ibrahim Magu-led commission bellowed.
And Nigerians are chuckling at the childishness on national display in the name of governance! Why didn’t the EFCC seal off the property before now? The drama is déjàvu.
And the dramatis personae started crawling out of the power crevices with accusations, counter-accusations and denials. The Interior Minister, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), was the first to absolve himself of complicity.
In a statement by his press secretary, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, Dambazau, who said Maina was deployed to the ministry in acting capacity to fill a vacancy following the retirement of the director in charge of the human resources department, pushed the blame to the Federal Civil Service Commission and the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
“For the avoidance of doubt, issues relating to discipline, employment, re-engagement, posting, promotion and retirement of federal civil servants are the responsibility of the Federal Civil Service Commission and the office of the Head of Service of the Federation …,” Danbazau said.
The Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, pushed back, literally calling him a liar.
“The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation wishes to inform the public that the reinstatement and posting of Alhaji Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina never emanated from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation,” she said in a statement signed by her Assistant Director, Media Relations, Mohammed Manga.
So, who did? Who cleared Maina to come back home, ordered his reinstatement in the civil service, gave him double promotion and paid him N22 million salary arrears?
There is something creepy about the Buhari-led APC government. It evokes a feeling of nastiness in the citizenry, a government that is at odds with the truth, that hugs propaganda and cant with relish, a government far less altruistic than it claims, that is selectively deaf and dumb.
There is evidence that Maina was visiting home in all the months the EFCC declared him wanted. There are documents in circulation now which show that his reinstatement was at the behest of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. The Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) held a meeting on Wednesday, August 16, to consider the minister’s letter and recommendations of the Senior Staff Committee (SSC) of the Interior Ministry. The meeting approved Maina’s reinstatement into the Federal Civil Service with effect from the date he was dismissed, February 21, 2013.
The questions that have concentrated the minds of many are: How could the presidency claim to be unaware of all these shenanigans? Who, in this government, could have the audacity to pull this political stunt without President Buhari’s buy-in or the knowledge of his surrogates, those who are in tune with his body language – members of the infamous cabal? In whose name did the Attorney-General initiate the move to reinstate Maina? Is it not possible that what happened was a gesture of appreciation to a generous benefactor by a grateful political party that still remembers the benevolent spirits that helped it crack its political kernel in 2015? So, how could the party apparatchik and its supreme leader plead ignorance as they are doing now?
But if it is, indeed, true that this was done over Buhari’s head, what does it say of his presidency and quality of his leadership?
Is it possible that Maina, a man on the wanted list of the EFCC, a fugitive on the run from the long arm of the Nigerian law, will come back to Nigeria without the knowledge of immigration officials, EFCC, DSS, and the police? It is reported that he is guarded by armed operatives of the Lawal Daura-led DSS and policemen. Who approved that?
What is happening in this country today in the name of governance, with strategy as clear as mud, would have been good comic relief if not that our collective destiny is at stake.
The only consolation, though, is that the joke is on Buhari who promised Nigerians “change” with pugnacious rhetoric, yet two years and five months down the road, serves them the same sour dish of yesterday.

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