For three years, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by the ousted Ibrahim Lamorde and the Senate committee led by senator Aloysius Etuk tried endlessly to prove that Adbulrasheed Maina, chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) stole 2 billion when he headed the pension reform task force . But what they will not tell you is that there are highly powerful individuals who will love to see Maina become the fall guy for a crime he is innocent of.
Unknown to many Nigerians, behind the scenes of the Maina trial, there has been a lot of distortion of facts, and sometimes outright blackmail, all in an attempt to discredit the PRTT boss.
Nigerians will not forget that Sani Shuaibu Tiedi, former director of pension in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, who is or was being prosecuted along with 31 others, alleged that Sen. Etuk as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other members of the Senate committee allegedly collected a bribe of N3billion from him.
In statements he made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Tiedi had said he paid the money to Mr. Etuk in foreign currency and that the bribe was meant to prevent their prosecution. He told investigators that he equally bribed Farida Waziri, Former Chairman of the EFCC.
But there has been a lot of deliberate cover in a well written script to give Maina a bad name.
The reasons are simple. Maina’s PRTT was a clog in the wheel of so many who were looting the pensioner’s fund. Maina’s PRTT was brought in to sanitise a very corrupt pension system. Many Nigerians will not forget that for years, aged pensioners suffered and even died roaming the streets of Abuja while waiting for their pensions. Emerging evidence has shown that Maina is just a victim of the popular saying, that when you fight corruption, corruption will fight back.
But in a hurry to crucify Maina, the Senate committee did what could best be described as a hatchet job.
For those who understand the structure of the task force, they will let you know that Maina never had access to the pension fund and could never have taken over N2 billion. Former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during a senate meeting said that Maina had no contact with funds and revealed how she froze the account where the monies recovered by Maina’s committee was kept and how she transferred the funds to the CBN.
But the question is why will the EFCC continue to hound a man for an offence which they know he is innocent of? Besides, Maina was only the head of the team which comprised of EFCC, ICPC, DSS, NIA, office of Accountant General, Auditor General Public Complaints Commission etc.
Perhaps, Maina was just a victim of high power play of some powerful individuals in high places, who at some point got irritated for his refusal to ‘share the money’. So, for three years, Maina suffered what has become known in Nigeria’s anti-corruption war as ‘media trial’ – where a man is found guilty several times on the pages of newspaper.
Despite the several facts presented before the senate committee during the hearing, the committee chose to ignore the facts.
Recall for instance that as far back as February 2013, Maina accused the then Head of Service of the the federation, Isa Sali of seizing on his troubles to pursue even broader scale of pension looting.
Mr. Maina said he had “verifiable” evidence the federal pension scheme was returning to “the looting era” which his team set out to end, with an alleged 98 percent of pensioners denied their benefits since November, 2012.
He said the process of preparing for payments, had been “desperately hijacked” by Mr. Sali, whom he accused of refusing to sign documents completed by his team, the Pension Reform Task Team, since November.
“It is surprising to note that when the Pension Team concluded paper-work preparation for the payment of November, 2012 monthly pension, as usual, the PRTT sent it to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bello Isa Sali, who usually approves the payment without delay; but could not attend to it, and with no official communication to date,” Mr. Maina said in a statement.
“As soon as the current Senate issues erupted,” he added, “the Pension Team wonders why Alhaji Sali facilitated the hijacking of the payment which would ruin the Federal Government pension transformation agenda.”
The question is why the Senate committee didn’t look into these allegations.
The senate report:
However, the most outrageous claim in the senate report is that the task team’s assertion that it had helped the nation saved any money is false. The report stated that what the team claimed it had saved were unspent funds. But even the Minister of finance has publicly announced that the task team saved the government about N78 billion, funds which were incorporated into year 2013 budget.