Abuja — Finance minister Kemi Adeosun yesterday claimed that the federal government stopped paying salary to the embattled former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, in March 2013.
The minister made this disclosure in Abuja during her appearance before the House of Representatives' ad hoc committee investigating the disappearance, re-appearance, re-instatement and promotion of Maina, according to a statement by Adeosun's special adviser, Media and Communication, Oluyinka Akintunde.
Adeosun told members of the ad hoc committee that Maina was last paid by the federal government in February 2013.
"We have checked our records and we have no record or evidence from the two platforms that salary was paid to Maina since March 2013. We have no biometric data of Maina and he is not a member of staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance or its agencies," the minister said.
Adeosun gave the two platforms government uses for the payment of salaries as the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).
The accountant-general of the federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, who appeared before the committee, corroborated Adeosun's position that Maina was removed from federal government's payroll in March 2013.
Ahmed stated that following reports that Maina was earning salaries, he investigated the matter and found the claim to be unsubstantiated.
"From our records," he said, "Maina last received salary from the federal government in February 2013. From March 2013, Maina was removed from the government's payroll. I don't know where he is getting his salary from.
"I even did a test-run by inputting his name in different platforms but nothing came up. Salaries are paid through pay slips; he couldn't have been paid through the air.
He challenged Maina to produce evidence to back up his claims of payment by the government.
I take responsibility for his reinstatement - Perm Sec
Meanwhile, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, yesterday, took responsibility for the role his ministry played in Maina's controversial reinstatement to public service.
Magaji said this yesterday at the investigative hearing of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the disappearance, reappearing, reinstatement and promotion of former chairman of Pension Reform Task Team.
The permanent secretary, who explained that he was not in the ministry when Maina was dismissed, also disclosed that the ministry conducted a senior staff committee meeting following a letter asking that Maina be reinstated, which was attended by representatives from the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission.
"The reference letter made to inform the head of civil service that Maina had assumed duty was a letter sent to the Federal Civil Service Commission and I erroneously acted on it. Whatever happened, as the permanent secretary, I take responsibility. I take responsibility for whatever the Ministry of Interior has done wrongly with regards to administrative procedure in this matter.
"I received a letter from the Office of the Head of Service referring to the reinstatement of Maina. The ministry conducted a senior staff committee meeting based on that letter with the representatives of the OHSF and FCSC present when the decision to reinstate him was reached, and after that, the decision was forwarded to the OHSF for adoption. It is important to note that FSCS has no power to order that meeting."
Magaji also insisted that Maina was neither documented nor paid salaries.
"After the reinstatement, Maina came to me but I told him that I can't place him on salary until I get further instructions. He was never documented, nor does he have an office."
On his part, the acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, dismissed assertions by Maina that the anti-graft commission was in custody of the funds and properties recovered by the Pension Task Team.
"Maina didn't hand over any assets to the commission. If he has done, so let him come and prove it," he said.
In her closing testimony at the hearing, the head of service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, declared that since her office did not act on the letter of reinstatement from the Federal Civil Service Commission, Maina's reinstatement was never activated in principle, hence the letter directing the reinstatement should be returned to the FCSC.
Meanwhile, the committee tasked the attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to hasten the ongoing investigation into the authorship of the letter directing Maina's reinstatement.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the justice minister has repeatedly denied signing the letter which purportedly emanated from his office, saying that the case "is work in progress".
We have no record he travelled abroad since 2013
Any trip Abdulrasheed Maina made outside Nigeria since September 2013 was illegally and clandestinely made, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said yesterday.
NIS comptroller-general, Mohammed Babandede, said that Maina had not travelled out of the country through any of the nation's airports or legal boundaries since 2013.
Speaking at an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, Babandede also revealed that Maina has three passports and dual citizenship of Nigeria and the United States of America.
"We have checked our records and we have not seen a single name of Maina pass through our airports since 2013 when he was blocked; so the record available to us shows that Maina has not been travelling.
"If he has been travelling, then it means he has not been travelling through an airport, we can see. By law, if you pass through a border, you are entitled to report to an immigration officer. So, if Maina has been travelling from 2013 till date, we don't know. If he has been passing through borders, he has not reported to an immigration officer. As far as we are concerned, Maina has not been travelling since 2013," Babandede said.
"We knew about Maina from September 27, 2013 when he was leaving the country and he was stopped at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport because of the letter from EFCC.
"Prior to that time, Maina was never in our stop list. He had been a frequent traveller across airports. He has three passports: an official passport which has expired and has not been renewed; a standard passport which is currently valid till 2018 and an American passport.
"So in an addition to being a citizen of Nigeria, he is also a citizen of America. He has a valid U.S. passport which will be expiring on 26th August, 2022."
The immigration chief also explained that, at some point, Maina's name was removed from the stop list.
"On December 1, 2015, the EFCC gave us a letter directing us to remove his name from the stop list, which we removed. But when the case of Maina started and a directive was given by the president that he should be probed, we blocked his name again in our stop list. We blocked all his passports - which means he cannot reissue his passport any longer and he cannot pass through our recognised borders," he said.