Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Pension Scam - Senate, Jonathan On War Path - 'Police Can't Find Maina

The Senate yesterday asked President Goodluck Jonathan to either sack the chairman of the Pension Reforms Task Force, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, or face its wrath.

The senators were furious that Maina was invited six times to appear before two committees to answer questions on missing pension funds, but had refused to honour any of the invitations.

After more than an hour of deliberations on a motion sponsored by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba and 107 other senators urging Maina's conduct, the Senate resolved that he be dismissed from the public service immediately and that he should be arrested and prosecuted.

The Senate also resolved that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, should appear before the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to explain why he did not arrest Maina whose arrest warrant had been issued by the Senate President, David Mark.

The Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration spent four months investigating the alleged mismanagement of N469bn pension funds. Its report submitted on June 20, 2012 said N273.9billion was diverted between 2005 and 2011.

In December last year, the panel also said it discovered N195bn fresh pension fraud and summoned Maina on six occasions to appear before it, but he failed to comply forcing the Senate President David Mark to issue a warrant of arrest on him. But the police also failed to arrest the pension boss.

Speaking in angry tone yesterday, Senate President David Mark asked Jonathan to choose between Maina and the Senate.

"We've been pushed to the wall. No matter the depth of Maina's situation, nobody associated with him will be left to go scot-free. It doesn't matter who is behind Maina. The executive has to choose between Maina and the Senate and if they choose between Maina, we have to react appropriately. This is a test case.

"If Maina remains, the Senate would react. Nobody in this country is bigger than our democracy. We've been extremely patient with Maina, and he has crucified himself. We've teeth to bite and when we bite, there will be no room for anybody to escape."

Mark noted that based on unsigned petitions received from Maina accusing the panel of demanding N3bn bribe, he directed that Maina be re-invited so that he could expose whoever demanded the bribe, adding that he eventually signed a warrant of arrest on Maina for severally failing to honour the invitations.

Lending his voice to the debate, Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PDP, Abia) warned Jonathan against incurring the wrath of the Senate over Maina, saying "the executive is calling for war over this issue. Every war comes with a heavy casualty, and the executive must realise that it is not immune to that casualty. The pension loot story is deeper than one man disrespecting the Senate. When you see a little sparrow dancing in the middle of the road, there is a demon nearby beating the drum. What Maina did was actively supported by the state (the executive). This is plotting the fall and disintegration of the legislature."

The chairman of the pension probe panel, Senator Aloysius Etok (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-West), said Maina was discovered to have spent N1bn screening 29 pensioners, another N8million on a weekly basis on 38 security officers guarding him and was also found to have forged his transfer letter from Borno State.

Contributing to the debate, Senators Olubunmi Adetunmbi (ACN, Ekiti North) and Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) queried why Maina, 'an ordinary assistant director', could be part of Jonathan's entourage to some foreign nations and why he (Maina) could go to the Abuja airport welcoming and shaking hands with Jonathan on his arrival from a foreign trip against the background of the alleged scandals surrounding him.

"What we're witnessing is a breakdown of law and order by a member of the management team of the executive. With this pension fraud, Maina has scored a goal against Nigeria and President Jonathan must annul that goal and score a winning goal against Maina. Maina is Jonathan's agent. He works for Jonathan", Adetunmbi said.

Senator Smart Adeyemi (PDP, Kogi West) asked the Senate to close down if it could not compel Jonathan to sack Maina and implement the resolutions of the committee, saying "We need to ask the executive if it wants the Senate to remain, otherwise, it's not out of place for us to sit at home if our resolutions are not respected.

"Maina's crime is the worst-ever committed in this country, and if he is walking free and we can't do anything as a chamber, then we has no business being here," Senator Adeyemi added.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Senators Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), Olusola Adeyeye (ACN, Osun Central) and Kabiru Gaya (ANPP, Kano South) wondered why Maina could be so powerful and describing his attitude as a brazen abuse of law.

"I've never seen this kind of disrespect for an institution of government. If anybody thinks he's bigger than the country, it's our responsibility to bring him down and to get rid of him from public service. Otherwise, our nation would continue to degenerate", Ekweremadu said.

"Let me give the genesis of why it took so long for this motion to be brought on the floor of the senate. He gave impression in the media that our committee demanded N3bn bribe from him and I felt he should be given fair hearing to expose whoever did that among the senators.

That was the basis for re-inviting him. He wrote a petition to me, though foolish enough not to sign it," the Deputy Senate President added.

Meanwhile the Police Force headquarters yesterday said it could not locate Maina's whereabouts.

Deputy Police Public Relations Officer Frank Mba said Maina, who was declared wanted by the police recently, hasn't been arrested because his hiding place could not be located.

"We have not seen Maina and he was not arrested. He is still a wanted man; anyone with information about him should please contact us," the police spokesman said.

But shortly after he was declared wanted, Maina had told journalists that he was around and that the police could arrest him if they wanted to do so.

Maina could not be reached yesterday but the spokesman of the Pension Reforms Task Team (PRTT), Hassan Salihu, said Maina has not committed any crime against the country or the senate.

He said the pension reforms team has done well and Maina does not deserve the treatment he is getting from the senate.

"I don't want to say anything about the Senate resolution. Maina has not committed any offence to deserve this high level of persecution. We have done this assignment to the best interest of this country, sincerely and honestly. God save Nigeria," he said.

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