Abdulrasheed Maina is about the most talked about Nigerian today. The former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, who was also a Deputy Director in the nation’s civil service got meteoric rise from oblivion to notoriety in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan where he was alleged to have helped himself to several billions of Naira of pensioners’ fund.
Maina, based on the allegation of corruption was invited by the then Senate Joint Committee on Public Service, Establishment, State and Local Government Administration to defend himself but ignored the panel only for a warrant of arrest to be served on him.
The ex-Pension boss was on July 21, 2015 mentioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a major accomplice in a 24-count charge filed against Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretense.
While Oronsaye and the two other accused were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, the EFCC said Maina was at large.
Though he claimed to have court orders affirming his fundamental human rights and shielding him from arrest, Maina fled the country to Dubai, the United Arab Emirate, with the alibi to escape assassination from his traducers whom he claimed were desperate to eliminate him with a view to stopping him from spilling the beans.
In the heat of the allegation and counter allegation, Maina was dismissed by the Head of Service for allegedly absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest and charged to court.
Suddenly, the fugitive returned and was curiously reinstated into the service with all benefits and entitlements missed while he was away, amounting to N22 million, settled. He was posted to the Interior ministry from where he initially absconded.
A pertinent question that has yet to be answered is how a personality who has yet to clear his name with the EFCC, which declared him wanted, got reabsorbed into President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, whose main preoccupation is fight against corruption.
Spokesman for the Maina family, Aliyu Maina, attempted to paint a picture of patriotism when he claimed that Maina was actually invited by the Department of State Services (DSS) to help curb leakages and generate more funds. According to him, the officials of the DSS provided security for him while in the country until his sack was ordered by the President.
There are also speculations that Maina may have been smuggled back into the civil service to clear his name in order to enable him to be eligible to contest the 2019 general election. There are insinuations that the ex-pension boss was considering a shot at the governorship position in his home state of Borno in 2019.
But the honourable step Maina ought to have taken, if actually he as innocent as he professes, was for him to submit himself to the process of the rule of law.
Many people hold that the fugitive ought to have turned himself in for the EFCC to arraign him and allow the court to pronounce him innocent and thereafter apply to be reinstated into the service.
The method adopted by the major dramatis personae in the scandal left ample room for suspicion that they may have something to hide.
Discerning critics and some Buharists feel scandalized by the decision of the Office of the Head of Service to re-absorb Maina without first ensuring that he cleared his name from the EFCC and probably have his days in the court of law.
Though the nation’s number one law officer, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, was said to have carried out due diligence and recommended his reinstatement into the civil service, the oversight of his arraignment by the EFCC to, at least, get judicial pronouncement in his favour was inescusable.
This is more so when everyone knows the predisposition of the President in any matter relating to corruption and any one connected therewith. It is a considered affront for anyone, no matter how highly placed, to try anything capable of impugning on the integrity and credibility of the President who has never hidden his aversion to corruption and those with opaque personality.
Observers are also at a loss as to why the EFCC would suddenly go to sleep when the fugitive returned to service even when the anti graft officials confirmed that he was still on their wanted list. The report that he was moving around with heavy security, when he was still on the EFCC wanted list, was an indictment on the efficacy of the security agency.
The fact that Maina could go underground immediately the President ordered his sack and probe into the circumstances that brought him back into the system suggested certain levels of compromise from those in charge of security and surveillance in the country.
While Nigerians are awaiting the action of the President over the reports submitted by the Head of Service, it is expected that those officials found culpable would not be allowed to go unpunished so as to checkmate the growing culture of impunity in the polity.
Buhari’s spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, dropped a hint that Maina’s reinstatement may be efforts at sabotaging Buhari’s administration by those officials who are still loyal to the last administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Shehu had alleged “Top officials in the PDP government, from sectoral heads, to those charged with responsibility for law and order received some of these billions of naira from Maina.
We have all the transaction records and these are matters that the EFCC has been pursuing to ensure that they all have their day in court,”
He, however, assured Nigerians that Buhari was determined to get to the bottom of the matter of the impunity that led to Maina’s reinstatement.
“Everything will be uncovered in due course. This just goes to show us the scale of corruption that this government is fighting. And, as we can all see, corruption keeps fighting back viciously,” he stressed.
In any case, Nigerians are waiting to see those evil collaborators being brought to book in order disabuse the minds of those doubters who are already convinced that the Buhari administration is selective in his fight against corruption.