Orgy of Denials In Maina-gate -By Dele Agekameh

Filed under: National Issues |

Dele Agekameh

 

The travails of Abdulrasheed Maina, the embattled former head of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform under former President Goodluck Jonathan is still hot in the news. While the mystery surrounding his disappearance and reappearance continues to unravel, there is more confusion than there are clarifications.

The House of Representatives began an investigative hearing into the matter on Thursday, November 23, 2017, and we have since been treated to a rash of accusations and denials that leave no doubt that there is a toxic element to the Maina matter. One after the other, government officials and heads of agencies have distanced themselves from involvement in Maina’s re-appointment.

Documents that were made public through excellent journalistic diligence showing the paper trail of approvals and referrals leading to Maina’s re-emergence, have made the matter worse. This is because they have not only been denied by their apparent makers and originators, the denials have even gone as far as to include claims of forgery in their preparation and production. The entire issue is now taking the form of a mystery/thriller bestseller novel.

In a display of the lack of coordination between government agencies that this column has continually hammered on, Winifred Oyo-Ita, the head of service of the federal civil service; Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation; and Abdulrahman Dambazau, the minister of interior, the seeming principal players, all washed their hands off responsibility. They are all claiming no knowledge of how Maina eventually re-emerged as a director in the Civil Service. Dambazau, on his own part, claimed no knowledge at all about even the prior correspondence and instead led the permanent secretary in his ministry, Abubakar Magaji, to the gauntlet.

Magaji later emerged to be the sacrificial lamb in the festival of denials playing out before the House of Representatives. After an initial tussle with Oyo-Ita, Magaji seemed to accept responsibility for Maina’s appointment by admitting to an ‘administrative error’ that, at least, on the surface, cleared Oyo-Ita. His admission remains the only recorded hint at responsibility for the re-appointment.

Many questions remain, however. In the case of Malami, it does not appear that his ten-foot pole strategy will work. He is caught stark in the middle of the imbroglio. Tapes have surfaced showing Maina giving account of how he met with Malami outside the country. This does not help Malami’s picture of aloofness in the matter, as suggested by his convenient memory lapse while making his first statements.

Also, Mrs Oyo-Ita and the head of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Joseph Akande, both claim to have received a series of letters from the AGF on the issue of Maina’s re-instatement. Malami denied signing or sending any. This suggests one of two things – that forgery is involved in this matter or that the AGF has suffered severe memory loss. Either way, Malami is far from exonerated, as there is documentary evidence, some of which has been made public.

The denials extend as far as the net of Maina-gate goes. For instance, whereas Maina’s lawyer claimed that his client has continued to receive payment of salary from the government, Kemi Adeosun, the minister of finance, and Ahmed Idris the accountant general of the federation, have both rubbished the claim, stating that Maina’s last payment from the government was in February 2013. The police denied protecting Maina or his properties, with the Nigerian Immigration Service also claiming to have no record of Maina’s goings and comings in and out of Nigeria since 2013, while he was wanted by the EFCC and the police.

Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC boss, had the opportunity to make his own denial in response to a Senate ad-hoc committee finding that Maina handed over 222 properties recovered from pension thieves to the EFCC. He claimed not to have been handed anything by Maina, but, instead, that all properties recovered in relation to Maina and pensions were done solely by his agency. This is particularly interesting as the EFCC has routinely been accused of receiving and ‘sharing’ recovered loot and properties. Claims by ‘victims’ of the agency who are coerced into forfeiting asset quietly in exchange for no prosecution are rampant.

In relation to recovered loot, there are unanswered questions arising from the video recording of Maina that surfaced recently. He claimed to have handed over documents to Malami that would lead to the recovery of N1.3 trillion in stolen pension funds. There has been no hint of this in any part of the testimony that has been recorded in the House of Representatives. If true, there is already another case to answer between Malami and whoever else was privy to the documents mentioned by Maina.

Maina further pleaded for audience with the president and protection from the security agencies to enable him reveal facts and documents that will expose people and lead to the recovery of even more trillions.

For what it is worth, it is beginning to appear like Maina has been sitting on serious evidence and information that may justify his paranoia. What is disturbing, however, is his lack of trust in the integrity of the government agencies, particularly the EFCC. His fear and distrust is an indictment on the agency. Guilty or not, a person under investigation should have confidence in the system and assurance that the right thing will be done.

The plot thickens with the emergence of new clues that the Department of State Services (DSS) has been within reach of Maina in the past. The head of that agency has revealed how he advised Malami to meet with Maina. If the government agencies were in consonance about their objectives, the knowledge of Maina reaching out to Malami could have been used to lure him out into the open to allow the law take its course.

At this juncture, with the facts at hand and the demeanour of the different agencies, there seems to be some cover up. The shadow of vested interests is again visible in this case. An alternative perspective of the matter sees Maina as a compromised person who is threatening to bring other powerful people down with him. As he stated in the video recording, “I am no saint”. Whether that is an admission of some guilt on his part is left to anyone’s imagination but his evasiveness and insistence on his possession of information that puts his life at risk cannot be ignored.

If Maina’s claims are to be believed, he has obtained about three court judgments in his favour concerning his dismissal. True to his lawyer’s claim also, there is no court judgment or pronouncement that has found him guilty of wrongdoing. Whether this is because he has not made himself available for prosecution is another matter altogether. However the legalese of this matter is not the main issue anymore. The central issue now is that Maina is a potential whistle-blower who fears for his life. Malami needs to be re-invited to the House to shed light on the truth of the documents Maina claimed to have handed him somewhere outside the country.

The next chapter of Maina-gate is likely to be more revealing than the present orgy of denials. Somewhere down the line, there will be no more room for excuses and the real issues will begin to emerge. Maina’s fame or infamy will ultimately be determined in the long run. His family insists he is a hero and will be justified, while Magu wants to find out why his 7-year-old son has N1.7 billion in his account.

In other climes, a person claiming threat to his life and access to sensitive incriminating evidence would have been granted protective custody by now. Seeing as the information could help recover crucially needed funds, some sort of deal can be reached regarding his culpability. The government has dragged its feet for too long and this is now becoming a media circus. Hopefully, the right thing will be done in the end.

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