President Muhammadu Buhari's administration has secretly reinstated fugitive former Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service.
Multiple sources confirmed to that Mr. Maina, who is wanted by the Anti-Graft Agency, EFCC, was secretly recalled and promoted to the position of director in charge of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior.
Before his appointment to chair the pension task force, Mr. Maina was an assistant director in the ministry.
The news of the reinstatement first filtered through a congratulatory message for Mr. Maina by a group called League of Civil Society Organizations which commended the federal government for the reinstatement.
Mr. Maina was in 2013 dismissed by the Federal Civil Service Commission following a recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service.
A retired director in the Office of the Head of Service familiar with the matter said recalling Mr. Maina was an affront on the rule of law.
“He should not have been reinstated. Doesn’t Mr. Maina have a case in court? The rules provide for action to be taken only after the courts have dispensed of the case fully,” he said.
Trouble started in 2012 when Mr. Maina was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to more than N100 billion. Mr. Maina was drafted by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010 to sanitize a corrupt pension system.
Based on the allegation of corruption, Mr. Maina was invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration.
The Senate after completion of its investigation issued a Warrant of Arrest against Mr. Maina.
Ignoring the panel, Mr. Maina went ahead to sue the Senate and the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and thereafter went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police.
Consequent upon this, Mr. Maina was dismissed by the Head of Service for allegedly absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest and charged to court.
He was on July 21, 2015, charged by the EFCC alongside Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretense.
While Mr. Oronsaye and the two other accused were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, Mr. Maina was at large.
Mr. Maina is said to have spent these past years in the United Arab Emirates, from where he kept lobbying to win the pleasures of the Buhari administration.
Since absconding, nothing was heard of Mr. Maina until shortly after the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 when members of his defunct Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms offered to work with the then incoming administration.
The team, which addressed a press conference in Abuja, said its work would be easier under Mr. Buhari, known for his anti-corruption stand.
A member of the team, Ngozika Ihuoma, said one of the achievements of President Jonathan was the creation of the pension task reform body in June 2010 under the leadership of Mr. Maina.
Two years after, it appears the prayer of the team has been answered by the current administration.
Mr. Maina’s reinstatement was shrouded in secrecy and was handled “at the highest level” according to an informed source.
The reinstatement was not announced by the presidency or any federal government agency.
Earlier this year, Mr. Maina’s campaign posters surfaced on the social media, touting him as a gubernatorial aspirant for Borno State, without indicating political party platform.
A source knowledgeable about the deal that brought the controversial civil servant back, said Mr. Maina pulled the strings through the duo of the Justice and Interior ministers, who are described as Mr. Maina’s acquaintances.
Mr. Maina is said to have used many emissaries to the two ministers, while he was ensconced in his hiding place in Dubai.
Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau, did not answer repeated calls to his phone seeking to clarify the information.
The spokesperson of Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice, Salihu Othman, however, said he was unaware of his boss’s role in the deal.
However, a top official of the EFCC said Mr. Maina is still wanted by the commission in relation to the pension scam for which he was arraigned in absentia.
“We are still looking for him. He is a wanted man. He ought to be arraigned with Oronsaye and the rest but he disappeared,” said the official, who pleaded anonymity.
He said the commission will immediately revisit the case as it continues to search for the embattled civil servant.
President Buhari’s Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said he was unaware of Mr. Maina’s reinstatement.