The controversial recall of fugitive Abdulrasheed Maina to the Nigerian civil service was masterminded by Attorney General Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, sources and official correspondence seen by PREMIUM TIMES have revealed.
While Mr. Malami was the mastermind of the recall, Mr. Dambazau, contrary to his claims, played a major role in it, investigations reveal.
The recall of Mr. Maina, who is still wanted for alleged N2 billion fraud by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, has since been condemned by Nigerians and civil society groups, forcing a prompt reaction by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to a statement on Monday by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, Mr. Buhari ordered the “immediate disengagement” of Mr. Maina from the civil service.
The president also “demanded a full report of the circumstances of Maina’s recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior,” Mr. Adesina said, adding that the report must be submitted tonight (Monday).
While the presidency reviews the report of Mr. Maina’s reinstatement, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm that two of his ministers played crucial roles in the recall.
HOW IT STARTED
On April 27, Mr. Malami wrote the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC, requesting it to “give consequential effect to the judgement that voided the warrant of arrest issued against A.A. Maina which formed the basis for the query and his eventual dismissal,” Mustapha Sulaiman, the chairman of the FCSC said.
In other words, according to Mr. Sulaiman, the attorney general in his letter with reference HAGF/FCSC/2017/VOL.1/3 requested Mr. Maina’s reinstatement based on a supposed court order voiding his arrest warrant.
However, PREMIUM TIMES findings reveal that Mr. Malami’s claim that the arrest warrant was the basis for which Mr. Maina was dismissed is false.
While Mr. Maina was dismissed for absconding from office on February 21, 2013, the EFCC only secured a court order for his arrest two years later, on October 27, 2015.
The arrest warrant granted by a Chief Magistrate in Abuja, Ahmed Shuaibu, was however lifted in 2016.
On Monday evening, EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, declined comment on Magistrate Shuaibu’s directive; simply saying “Maina is wanted by the commission; that is our position.”
Mr. Malami’s spokesperson, Salihu Isah, declined to comment on why his boss made a false claim and why he did not appeal such a ruling considering that Mr. Maina had still refused to surrender himself to the EFCC.
“I can’t speak to PREMIUM TIMES on this issue,” he said. “I’m not aware of anything, he (AGF Malami) has not told me anything in that regard. I don’t know anything about it.”
Sources at the anti-graft agency also confirmed that Mr. Malami never raised the issue of Mr. Maina with the commission before his advice to the FCSC.
Following Mr. Malami’s letter, the FCSC held a meeting on June 14 where it “deliberated on the Attorney General of the Federation’s letter and requested the Office of the Civil Service of the Federal vide letter FC.4029/82/VOL.III/160 of 21st June 2017 to advise the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Interior to consider the AGF’s letter, the Officer’s case and make appropriate recommendations to the commission,” Mr. Sulaiman’s letter to Mr. Maina and the Head of Service on September 18 reads.
At a meeting held on June 22, the Senior Staff Committee of the Interior Ministry headed by Mr. Dambazau, deliberated on the letter and recommended that Mr. Maina be reinstated to his former position as deputy director, at the Interior Ministry.
Therefore, contrary to Mr. Dambazau’s claim that it was the Head of Service and the FCSC that recommended Mr. Maina’s reinstatement, it was actually his ministry under his supervision that made the recommendation following Mr. Malami’s letter.
Sources knowledgeable about the matter confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Dambazau is a close associate of Mr. Maina and played a crucial role in the negotiation for his reinstatement.
Sources also said the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, resisted the move to reinstate Mr. Maina but eventually caved in to pressure.
“That is why you will never see a memo where she wrote recommending or supporting the recall; because she never did,” a source said.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita also made that stance publicly when she said in a statement on Monday that “the re-instatement and posting” of Mr. Maina “never emanated” from her office.
However, while the reinstatement did not emanate from her office, it is Mrs. Oyo-Ita’s office which forwarded the decision of the Interior Ministry to the FCSC in a letter dated August 14 with reference number HCSF/LU/COR/FCSC/749/III/135.
Two days after the Head of Service forwarded the letter, the FCSC met to arrive at a conclusion, Mr. Sulaiman wrote.
“The FCSC at its meeting held on Wednesday 16th August, 2017 considered the letter” from the AGF and the recommendation of the Interior Ministry.
“The FCSC, thereafter, approved the reinstatement of the officer into the service with effect from 21st February 2013 (being the date he was earlier dismissed from service).”
To further reward Mr. Maina, “the FCSC also approved for the officer to sit for the next promotion examination to the Post of Director (Administration), SGL.17.”
Several calls and messages sent to Joel Oruche, Deputy Director, Press, of the Federal Civil Service Commission went unanswered.
The Press Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, could not also be reached on why his principal provided false information to Nigerians.
WHAT NEXT FOR BUHARI
The presidential spokesperson, Mr. Adesina, confirmed on Monday night that Mr. Buhari had received the report by Mrs. Oyo-Ita.
Speaking on Channels Television, Mr. Adesina said the report was submitted to the president’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, on Monday evening as directed.
However, many Nigerians are wondering if Mr. Buhari would take any decisive step on his minsters who ordered such recall of a fugitive.
Human Rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, argued that Mr. Buhari has no legal powers to order the sack of Mr. Maina, but has such powers to dismiss his aides who engineered the recall.
“But the President has the power to sack his AGF, the Minister of the Interior and any political appointee including his Chief of Staff who are reported to have masterminded and orchestrated the Maina fiasco,” Mr. Ogunye said.
“So, the President has left those he could sack and has gone for the head of the one he could not lawfully sack.
“It appears to be forlorn hope that the President will move soon against the members of his kitchen cabinet who are hatching one plot of dent for him after another.”
While Nigerians await the president’s action, Mr. Maina continues to be a fugitive and has refused to submit himself to the EFCC which accuses him of involvement in a N2 billion pension fraud.
On Monday, the anti-graft agency stormed his alleged $2 million dollars house and marked it as being under investigation.