Sometimes some things could look very blurry in Nigeria yet they are real, which was what actually happened on that very day of the 19th of December 2012, when Nigerian Senate performed its basic fundamental duty of ensuring accountable governance, with the tasking resolve to pin down a slippery public official bound for interrogation. The venue was at one of the committee rooms of the National Assembly, which was filled to the brim with an expectant audience, who had waited impatiently for the appearance of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the infamous Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT). From their physical demeanor, it could be easily seen that the membership of the Senate Joint Committee Investigating Pension Administration looked angry, because of an attempt by a mere civil servant to test the resolve of the second arm of the government.
Indeed, while Senator Aloysius Etok who is the chairman of the investigative committee, was lashing out at the monumental effrontery of the little prat heading PRTT, his co-chair in the committee, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya reported the sighting of the all powerful deputy director, seconded to the task team from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation. As the former governor of Kano state turned legislature told the panel, he was just briefed by his police security detail that Mr. Maina was at the gate of the National Assembly addressing a fiery crowd, aptly capturing the historical significance of gates and forecourts of the people’s parliament, to the age old struggles of the little person confronting no less an omnipotent arm of the government.
As the committee meeting was about to wind down, after a long wait and evident probable disappointment of the legislators, who had been wantonly ignored and need I say belittled. The mere public servant sauntered into room, with the air of unrivalled importance and with the airy grace of one who could never be a runaway fugitive, because, by the way he entered, a ranking member of the first family during the secretive reign of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha would have envied, not merely in the retinue of aides and supporting staff escorting him, but virtually the sheer number and type of security personnel who ensured his presence at the forum. At first from the membership of the committee to uninvited spectators like me, was the impression that the Nigerian police was giving effect to the warrant of arrest, but the graceful carriage of Maina quickly put paid to that thought. As he forceful announced his presence, asserting that he was neither served a warrant nor was an attempt ever made to arrest him, after all, he is roundly protected on a twenty four hour basis, by the same police officers who are expected to conduct the manhunt.
In fact, the confessions he divulged at the fringes of the finished parliamentary oversight session, would have been only obtained after a bout of odious torture at the Nigerian Police Criminal Investigation Department, had the distinguished senators being patient and listened to him. As he stated, the responsibility is not mine, for all the actions I took, because, whatever I did is with the express approval of the Head of Service of the Federation and whatever expenditure incurred or any bank account operated is with the acquiesce of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance. Besides, it is clearly far from the norm and against the situational dictates of the federal civil service, for a mere assistant director to enjoy such eminence in protection, simply because he is heading an investigative committee, a habitual trait which this administration is blessed with. After all, it is not for nothing, that its opponents derogatively call the President Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership style as that of government by committees.
Obviously, we do not need a soothsayer nor the mighty outreach of the premier national investigation agency, to know that such an individual is confronting a powerful group, who are intricately woven to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation that are perpetuating the tempering with pension funds of the various agencies of government, with the distinct knowledge that like an interconnected web, it has encompassed almost everyone willing within the federal civil service system. Thus, any genuine attempt at fighting the criminal act of stealing pension funds of hapless retirees or even a deceptive image of a conflict with the cabals is bound to result in severe consequences for the undertaker of the thankless task, even if he is poking for such trouble under a task team.
As such, when around the end of last week, I saw a report in the newspapers declaring Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina wanted, you could not understand my shock and bewilderment, not because the subject matter is above the law, rather in the fact that the order of arrest deviated from the norm, which is that the normal procedure in Nigeria is that a warrant order for the arrest of a high value fugitive is accompanied with the provision for the payment of a bounty, should any citizen be willing to disclose the whereabouts of persons on the run and it is virtually to everyone’s agreement, that with the vast sums measured in billions handled by the runaway, no amount would have been small for any information about Maina. In fact, had such been done, even his police security detail would have been sufficiently motivated to rat him out, talk less of other Nigerians like me who could swear sighting somebody resembling the subject in adjoining offices to that of the Head of Services of the Federation.