By Kunle Sanyaolu
The interminable resilience of Nigerians is one reason why the country is extraordinary. That factor has played out many times, and it is playing out again in the saga of Abdullahi Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
It is worth recalling that the task force was set up in June 2010 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, ostensibly to sanitise the pension offices of the police and the Head of Service.
Maina’s team went into action sometimes in 2011; but shortly after, the Senate had cause to investigate activities of the Task Force, only to discover that money, to the tune of N195 billion was missing from the pension funds. The Senate referred the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.
Maina was indicted and dismissed from the Civil Service in 2013. Before the EFCC made up its mind to prosecute him in 2015 specifically for corruption charges to the tune of N2billion, Maina disappeared from the scene. The EFCC issued a warrant of arrest on him in addition to listing him on International Police INTERPOL’s Red Notice.
Amazingly, Maina reappeared on the scene more confident, having been not only reappointed but actually promoted as Director in the Ministry of Interior.
There is need to verify whether an outstanding allowance of more than N22m had been paid to him and if so, where is the money now that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered his sack…for the second time!
But in the meantime, Maina has absconded again. Some newspapers described him as having returned to his self-exile!
Already, there are too many questions, vituperations, accusations and counter accusations surrounding his reabsorption and promotion.
Meanwhile events are still unravelling in a manner that suggests that the heads of some top public servants should roll in the saga. That the heads have not rolled is again evidence of the country’s extraordinary status. In decent climes, the continued retention of an officer like the Attorney General of the Federation would have been highly questionable if indeed he recommended Maina’s reabsorption upon a court ruling that is lacking in substance vis-à-vis the recommendations.
Not surprisingly, the Maina saga has suddenly developed more complications as the dismissed pension chief released more facts supposedly to clarify the issues. He wrote a lengthy letter to Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, claiming that he was being persecuted for treading on the toes of those who stole pension funds.
To buttress his contention, he referred to the reported gun attack on his car shortly before his first flight out of the country. To him, corruption is fighting back, more so as he had saved about N1.6 trillion from alleged looters of pension fund. Similarly, his media aide, Olajide Fashikun, issued a statement on his behalf detailing how his task force fought looters of pension fund and saved N282 billion.
All said, the Maina saga is a big distraction that should never have happened to a government of Buhari’s status, with its pedigree for anti-corruption. The questions must be publicly and satisfactorily resolved if the country is to nurse any hope that corruption will not eventually drown it.
For a start, the public will like to know if the attack on Maina, prior to his first self-exile was real or fabricated. So what happens to the would-have-been assassins? At the next level, Maina should be produced from wherever he may be hiding and given maximum assurances that he would be protected from harm while he answers to corruption charges against him.
And unless there is good cause, his own allegations against those who stole pension funds should not be swept under the carpet.