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Published On: Wed, Oct 25th, 2017

Mainagate: Buhari’s prompt, forthright response

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It was reported Monday, October 23 2017, that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the “immediate disengagement” of Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms. The news reports quoted an official Presidency statement conveying the dismissal of the former assistant director in the federal civil service.

The statement by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, quoted a presidential memorandum to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, as also having asked for a “full report” on the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting. President Buhari, currently visiting neighbouring Niger Republic, directed that the report be given to his Chief of Staff Abba Kyari “before the end of work” that Monday, October 23.” Kyari yesterday confirmed receiving the report.

Just as now, in 2013 Maina, a hitherto unheralded public servant, made national and international news headlines for the wrong reason. As an assistant director, he was lifted above his superiors to be made the head of a presidential task force overseeing reform of Nigeria’s notoriously inefficient federal pension scheme. Before long, the man thought to be the Messiah was himself accused of having embezzled N100 billion from the fund. The Senate was investigating the charges when Maina allegedly escaped from the country. He was then dismissed from the civil service.

Nothing was heard of the man again until last week when a national online newspaper The Premium Times reported that Maina had sneaked back into the country. Not only that, he has been reinstated in the civil service, promoted to the position of deputy director on salary grade level16 and deployed to the ministry of interior, headed by Lt.-General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau, a former Chief of Army Staff.

Reacting Monday to the publication linking him to Maina’s recall and deployment to his ministry, Gen. Dambazzau denied he had a hand in it. According to him, personnel matters are issues handled by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. This office is today headed by Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita. A letter from the interior ministry, MI/1436/11/24, dated Oct. 16, 2017, signed by a deputy director, Salihu A. Bala, to the Office of the Head of Service acknowledged Maina’s deployment to the Ministry of Interior. It confirmed that Maina “assumed duty on September 28.” Mrs. Oyo-Ita initially denied initiating Maina’s recall. However, it said later that it acted on an instruction from the Federal Civil Service Commission which, on its own part, said it received a directive from the federal Attorney General and Minster of Justice Abubakar Malami to reinstate Maina in service.

Let it be noted that this controversy has arisen at a time when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is investigating Maina on a N2 billion fraud charge. The investigation stalled because Maina went into hiding.

We must say that we at Peoples Daily are impressed by President Buhari’s prompt and forthright order that Maina be removed “immediately” and a thorough investigation of the strange circumstances of his reinstatement to follow. This is as it should be. It is unheard of anywhere in the world that a government official, or any citizen for that matter, trying to avoid being caught by the police returns secretly, is not arrested but offered his job back. Responding the way Buhari has done will go a long way to salvage his image as anti corruption fighter- an image that has received some knocks lately.

Besides his “immediate dismissal”, Maina should be handed over to the EFCC to reopen his stalled prosecution. Again, we note that Maina did not do all these things alone. It is right Buhari did not stop at his removal. The inquiry he ordered into the circumstances of the man’ ‘rehabilitation’, hopefully, should expose the other faces behind it all. If it does, the president should not hesitate to show them the door. What is happening is a national disgrace and it must not stand.

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