Senate queries EFCC over ‘sharing’ of recovered assets

Members of the Nigerian Senate during a plenary

• Malami, Dambazau, Oyo-Ita deny role in his reinstatement
• Former pension boss still receiving salaries, lawyer alleges

An investigation into the alleged disappearance of assets seized by the Abdulrasheed Maina-led Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms has been opened by the Senate.

They had reportedly been kept in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The upper legislative chamber took the decision following the adoption of a motion by Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa State).

Paulker, chairman of the committee investigating the botched reinstatement and promotion of Maina, alleged that the top echelon of the EFCC and others shared some 270 properties that included exotic houses and hotels.

The senator said his committee got wind of the matter following submissions by government officials connected with the reinstatement saga.

Consequently, he requested the Senate to expand the scope of the committee’s investigation, with a view to unveiling persons involved in the scandal.

“For this alarming revelation, sir, this committee requests the Senate to expand the scope of its investigation on Maina by extending it to the management of assets recovered by him and handed over to the EFCC before his removal as chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pensions, in 2014 and by so doing, extend the duration of the assignment,” Paulker requested.

Without dissent, the chamber granted his request.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the committee must do everything possible to unveil the perpetrators and report its findings in four weeks.

“This is a very serious matter and large-scale corruption going on in a forbidden place. We just hope that it remains at the realm of allegation and not as presented,” he said.

The Paulker-led committee had in the last two weeks held closed-door sessions with the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, Minister of Interior, retired General Abdulrahaman Dambazzau and Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Mustapha Sulaiman.

It sought to determine their alleged roles in Maina’s reinstatement to the Federal Civil Service, three years after he disappeared from the public over alleged mismanagement of pension funds.

In a deposition submitted to the committee, Malami disclosed that recovered property in EFCC custody disappeared. The AGF handed over the 13-page document dated November 14, 2017 to Paulker in person.

“The re-looted properties include real estate and motor vehicles. One of the said properties is worth N1 billion and was given to a prominent lawyer at a give away price of N600 million. The property was recovered from Dr. Shaibu Teidi. Teidi was a former Director of Pensions Account, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, before he was removed and prosecuted in 2013 by the EFCC.”

Malami also raised some posers in the deposition: “What happened to the monies recovered from the syndicate? What about the 270 properties comprising real estate and motor vehicles, one of which is a mansion worth N1 billion situated at No 42, Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, allegedly given to a senior lawyer?

Another document tendered before the committee and obtained by The Guardian, showed that 270 properties recovered by Maina’s team were indeed kept with the EFCC.

“These property are under the custody of the EFCC. The property, as we speak, have been shared among top officials of the commission, friends and family members, including lawyers of the agency,” the document reads in part.

Malami told the committee that his signature on the said document that reinstated Maina was forged. He said desperate people, out to smear his image, were behind the forgery, stopping short of disclosing their identities.

So far, Malami has appeared thrice before the Senate ad hoc committee. He is expected to make further appearances to respond to allegations against him.

As head of the ministry, which supervises the EFCC, Malami is expected to aid the committee in recovering the alleged re-looted properties.

Testifying before the Ali Madaki-led House of Representatives ad hoc committee yesterday, Malami explained that until news of Maina’s reinstatement broke, his ministry had not resolved the legality of the matter.

He said Maina’s solicitor intimated the justice ministry on the need to adhere to the court judgment that ordered his reinstatement.

He argued that as chief law officer of the country, it was necessary he stood by the rule of law, since none of the parties involved in the suits – the Senate, Senate President, the police, and the EFCC appealed against the judgment within the time allowed by law.

Malami insisted his intervention was borne out of respect for the law and desire to expose corruption in the pension scheme. He made reference to recovery, at the instance of his ministry, of over N240 million allegedly linked to Maina to buttress his claim.

The Minister of Interior, retired Lt. -Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau, also testified, saying he had no hand in the attempt to reinstate Maina.

He said the matter was purely an establishment issue that fell under the jurisdiction of the permanent secretary of the ministry. He, however, informed the lawmakers that the secretary was unavoidably absent due to a health challenge.

The acting chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Mr. Joseph Akande, justified the decision to dismiss Maina, saying it was based on the fact that he absconded from his duty post.

He, however, admitted that the justice minister approached him on the need to review Maina’s dismissal from the civil service, based on court decision.

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, expressed surprise that the interior ministry sidelined her outfit to reinstate Maina in breach of due process. She acknowledged that the opinion of the justice minister on any legal matter had to be treated with respect.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Tochukwu Valentine said Maina was still on the wanted list of the police, adding there was a red alert for his arrest by Interpol.

Maina said he fled the country for his life. Represented by his counsel, Mohammed Sani Kato, he claimed he had been collecting his salary and allowances since he still remained an employee of the Ministry of Interior.

“Yes, he is still collecting salaries and his emoluments are paid to him. I will go further to tell you that at least 23 files were sent to Maina to treat in his capacity as acting director of the ministry.”

Kato, who said Maina had a lot of information to share on corrupt practices in the administration of pension funds, argued that the decision to sack him could not stand since it was duly challenged and nullified in court.

He promised to present Maina, if the lawmakers were ready to guarantee his safety and protection from arrest and harassment from law enforcement officers.

Madaki adjourned proceedings till November 30.



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