President Muhammadu Buhari’s aides on Wednesday engaged loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan in fierce war of words over who was responsible for the reinstatement of the wanted ex-chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
The argument raged even as the family of the embattled Maina, also on Wednesday, said the ex-pension boss was never a fraudster but a messiah whose efforts had put smiles on the faces of pensioners in the FCT and other parts of the country.
Maina, who was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged N2bn fraud, appeared in the country last month and was reinstated into the civil service with promotion.
But following the public outcry against the reinstatement, Buhari on Monday ordered the termination of Maina’s appointment; and on Tuesday, the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission sealed off some of his houses.
Reacting to the developments, the spokesman of Maina’s family, Alhaji Aliyu Maina, told newsmen in Kaduna on Wednesday that it was the APC-led administration that facilitated Maina’s return “to come back and assist its change agenda.”
He insisted that a “cabal” was out to tarnish the image of Maina in the media, noting that the family was in possession of facts that were against the cabal, which would be of great interest to the public.
Those facts, he promised, would be disclosed to Nigerians soon.
The family spokesman said, “You must have noticed the recent attempt by some cabal to ridicule and tarnish the image of the Maina family in the social, electronic and print media, where our brother, father, and uncle has been blackmailed as a fraudster. The cabal has gone to the extent of marking our house with red paint with the inscription, ‘EFCC under investigation.’
“The entire family of Abdullahi Maina is hereby categorically stating that our son is not in any way a fraudster, rather he is a messiah who brought remarkable reforms into the Nigerian pension scheme, whose efforts saw the disappearance of pensioners roaming the streets of FCT, Abuja and other state capitals.
“It is on record that Abdulrasheed Maina’s reform put a stop to the fraudulent withdrawal of huge sums from the Nigerian Pension Board and the Nigerian Police Pension Board.
“Perhaps it is his noble efforts that made him enviable to the present administration when they came into power to convince him to come back and assist in its ‘change’ agenda.”
He also added that the family had contacted their lawyer, Messrs Mamman Nasir & Co, and instructed them to act appropriately.
“We equally know that Abdulrasheed Maina is in possession of so many facts that is against the cabal and interesting to the Nigerian populace, which he will disclose soonest. One must ask whether it is an offence for somebody to serve his father land faithfully,” he said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the allegation in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu was reacting to a statement by the Peoples Democratic Party on the matter.
He said, “Some influential officials loyal to the previous government may have been the invisible hand in the latest scandal that saw the return of Maina to the public service, despite being on the EFCC’s wanted list.
“Everything will be uncovered in due course. This just goes to show us the scale of corruption that this government is fighting. And, as we can all see, corruption keeps fighting back viciously.”
Shehu described Maina as one of the monsters created by the former PDP government, and who are still rearing their ugly heads long after the party was defeated in the 2015 elections.
“Over and over again, President Buhari’s government has pointed out that the administration’s greatest problem is the mess left behind by the previous government. Maina is just one more example,” he added.
Referring to records from the investigations that led to the disgrace of the former pension boss and his being declared wanted by the EFCC, Shehu noted that Maina was not the only top member of the former government involved in the multi-billion naira pension scandal.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party have described President Muhammadu Buhari’s allegations as untrue.
They wondered whether those who wrote letters to Maina, asking him to resume work at the Ministry of Interior were appointed by the former president or the PDP.
Jonathan, who spoke though his media aide, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the claim by the Presidency was ridiculous.
He said, “It is ridiculous to say that Jonathan’s loyalists brought Maina back into service. Is it his loyalists that are in government? Somebody who has left office over two years, his loyalists still brought in a fugitive to power? It is laughable.
“Is it his loyalists that also promoted him and made him an acting director from the position of an assistant director? These are the questions they should answer.
“It is funny. It doesn’t make any sense. Is it Jonathan’s men that reinstated him into office, wrote a letter to him and asked him to return to work?
“This was a fugitive that ran away from Jonathan’s government and it was Jonathan’s men who also put him in office? Someone who ran from the law? It doesn’t make sense.”
The PDP, in its reaction, asked Nigerians to continue to ignore the government, saying it had lost its bearing.