17 February 2013

Nigeria: Enter Maina, the Fugitive

Is aiding and shielding corrupt individuals the hallmark of Goodluck Jonathan administration? Well, that much will be put to test in days to come.

The case of a certain AbdulRasheed Maina, the embattled Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, has attracted the public attention as it continues to undulate in some wavy patterns in the country's high-stakes political arena.

The controversy peaked last week Wednesday with the Senate calling President Jonathan to sack Maina for refusing to appear before it over a multi-billion naira pension fund fraud. It also ordered for his immediate prosecution.

The Senators were particularly furious that Maina was invited six times to appear before its Joint Committee to answer questions bordering on mismanagement of pension funds but he flagrantly refused to honour the invitation.

The figures are staggering. The total pension cash allegedly mismanaged stands at N469billion, while N237.9billion was allegedly diverted from 2005 to 2011. Subsequently, a total of N195billion was discovered missing in December 2012. Though Maina claimed to have saved N221billion for government by uncovering 71,135 ghost workers in the system, he failed to honour Senate's summons probably due to the discovery that he had spent N1billion allegedly to screen 29 pensioners.

Now, Maina, who serves as an Assistant Director, has reportedly gone into hiding for fear that the pension cabal will attack him. He has absconded from official duties and pension task force officials have equally vacated their office for fear of arrest.

In response to the demands of the Senate, President Jonathan was initially noncommittal but when it was divulged that Maina had gone AWOL he directed the Head of Service, Alhaji Isa Sali to "act expeditiously" on the disciplinary proceedings against the fugitive and "report back to him on actions taken."

It was gathered that Maina's act is punishable by dismissal under the Public Service Rules. In Section 030402 of the Federal Government's Public Service Rules "absconding from duty" carries a grim penalty.

The police, on its part, has rejected insinuations that it was providing security for Maina. In his brief to the president, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Abubakar reportedly said after receiving the Senate's warrant, he had "constituted a team of detectives under the leadership of a Deputy Inspector-General of police" to effect the arrest.

The police chief stated that the police has since mounted surveillance at Maina's home and office but has been unable to arrest him because he has gone into hiding and stayed away from both locations since the warrant was issued, leading to his publicly being declared wanted by the police.

As police intensive man-hunt operations were still ongoing, the Senate remained undeterred and warned of a response if the president defied its decision.

As the drama keeps unfolding, many observers say the presidency's body language suggests Jonathan was shielding the embattled Maina, who is now being accused of a far bigger crime than what he was deployed to tackle. Though the president may not be overtly complicit in this matter, there are increasing public concerns over his seemingly repeated flouting of recommendations of sanctions by the National Assembly against indicted officials such as Arumna Oteh of Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Harold Demuren of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Maina was reportedly spotted at the Abuja international airport receiving the president who returned from his latest trip to the United Kingdom even as he has been declared wanted by the police.

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