By Garba Ahmed, Kaduna
Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Force, resurfaced on Sunday in Kaduna, granting an interview with select media organisations, including News Express.
He spoke on why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is after him and those behind his controversial sack and reinstatement. Excerpts:
There was a report in the national dailies last week, that you dragged EFCC to court can you expatiate on that?
Maina: First of all, it is (Ibrahim) Magu, the Chairman of the EFCC as a person that I dragged to court for dragging my name in the mud just because of some personal family scores he has with me. The second person is the spokesperson of the EFCC based on evidences of defamation of character I have gathered against him, too. Then there is the EFCC as an organisation, which I also dragged to court for Nigerians to know the truth about this pension controversies.
What are those personal issues between you and Mr. Magu, the EFCC Chairman?
Yes, the truth is, it is not my wish to disclose this issue because our elders back home said we should keep it secret. However, I will say a little about it, since you have asked me. You know, we have Northern and Southern Borno. I am from the royal family of Biu in Southern Borno. Since 1976, there has never been a time anybody from Southern Borno became a governor up till today. We are only given the Deputy Governor’s slot all the time. At a time I went for a ceremony of a chieftaincy title conferred on me by the Emir of Biu. The mammoth crowd at the ceremony was misconstrued as a political gathering, which made some people very uncomfortable. So, they had a meeting and mandated the EFCC boss to make sure he frustrates me. When you accuse someone of a wrong doing, I believe the right thing to do is to investigate and charge him to court and not to go to the pages of newspapers and be making noise. There was a time they said I have a seven-year-old son and that they found N1.7 billion in his account. I don’t have a son of even 13, 14 years and so on. They went to the streets and picked an innocent almajiri boy whom they said is my son. I had challenged them to make that purported account public for the whole world to judge, but they never did. They went and marked houses of my relations, trying to tell the world that the houses are mine.
Nigerians will want to know what really happened since your appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 up to the time of your controversial sack and reinstatement by President Buhari’s government?
Many of our pensioners who came to Abuja for their benefits were sleeping under the bridge. So, this became a source of worry to government. I was then recommended to be appointed by the President to head the task force despite my position as a Deputy Director. The first task was to immediately evacuate them from under the bridges to befitting hotels in Abuja. Unfortunately, some of them had died when we got there in the morning, due to sufferings and frustration. We immediately arranged for the transport of the bodies for burial in their hometowns. To our surprise also, we later realised that their cheques were ready long ago and some officials held on to them and were withdrawing from the bank. After resolving that issue, I commenced screening of all Nigerian pensioners. What we discovered was that the list of 258,000 pensioners was taken to National Assembly. We realised that N5.3 billion was also withdrawn to Head of Civil Service (HoS) every month for purported payment of pension to these same 258,000 pensioners. That was when we introduced biometric screening and discovered 73,156 were all fake pensioners in the list. They will arrange with some teachers and transfer the stolen pensioners’ money into some teachers’ accounts. There is this woman, they called Iyabo, she is their agent who collects the loot and shares to her cohorts; officials in the Accountant Generals office, Ministry of Finance, Justice and every offices involved in the fraud. I have documents, photos, audio and video evidences of all these fraud.
So, what was the exact amount needed to pay genuine pensioners and how much was stolen at that time?
We discovered that only N800 million was needed to pay all the pensioners. That means that N4.179 billion was stolen and shared every month. That was when I started receiving threats to my life. I received a threat giving me seven days to leave the country or my family and I will be killed.
They even listed the names of my children and the schools they attend. So, I reported the matter to the then President Jonathan, who ordered that I be assigned security and bullet-proof car.
When I returned, I discovered 56,750 who have stayed for between 35-40 years and have never been enrolled or paid their pension entitlement. What I want you to understand here is that, I don’t handle money. That is why I am surprised when I hear that I have stolen pension money. If they say I stole money or I have pensioners’ money with me, who gave me the money? Office of the Accountant General didn’t give me money, Head of Service didn’t give me money, Ministry of Finance didn’t give me money. In 2013, Senator Kabiru Gaya, the then Chairman, Senate Committee in the 7th Senate, accused me of stealing over N100 billion, just because they were not happy for refusing their fraudulent demands. He later turned around after defaming my character, and admitted that he made a mistake, saying that I didn’t steal the money.
What other pension fraud did you uncover?
Let me just give you a short answer: I discovered that N300 million pension money is stolen every day from the office of the HoS and the Police; 30 cheques are fraudulently raised and taken to Lagos.
Who is the authorising signatory of your committee?
My committee constitutes 40 EFCC operatives, 37 ICPC; I have those from SSS, police, Ministry of Finance, justices, public commission and every other government stakeholder is part of the committee. I don’t sign on anything until they sign on it. So, if I am accused of stealing N100 billion, how much did EFCC, ICPC and rest steal? I have photo evidences; some elders prevented me from releasing them. I have photo evidence of Nigerian editors from various media organisations were gathered in a hotel in Abuja, collected money in envelopes to destroy me.
How much pension fund did you generate while you were chairman of the committee?
I have a talent that complements my profession as a computer expert to trace stolen funds wherever they are hidden in the world. One day, I discovered N27 billion was stolen from the pension fund that we generated. We generated N180 billion in six months. I was able to generate N1.828 trillion within 20 months of my assignment in the committee. The money was deposited with Central Bank of Nigeria while Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido was the CBN Governor. The then President Jonathan approved that 3/4 of money we generated be released to us. But no money was released up till date. Let me tell you, what is stolen every year from Nigeria is over N4 trillion. The President has done his best, but there are things he will never know even if he ruled for eight years.
Why did you leave the country and settled in Dubai?
Some unknown assassins opened fire to my bullet-proof car and later sent a letter telling me that this is just the beginning. The President had to intervene for my children’s school to be transferred to Dubai after reported threats in their school in Nigeria and for me too to continue with my computer studies and work. This is the reason for my stay in Dubai.
Can you explain how your controversial reinstatement happened?
I frustrated every corrupt move by the 7th National Assembly during President Jonathan. It got to an extent that the lawmakers threatened President Jonathan to choose who to work with between me and them. So, I went my way and advised him to leave me and work with them as representatives of the people. They (lawmakers) went further to write to the HoS, insisting that he must sack me. At that time, too, I had written to the Minister of Finance to suspend the N5.2 billion grant to his (HoS) office. I advised that only N822 million out of the money should be given to him. At that time, I had direct access to the President on my assignment.
In 2013, I sued government, Senate and House of Representatives and other parties in court and won my case. The court had ordered for my reinstatement since 2013.
I instructed my lawyer to write a petition to the Minister of Justice for my reinstatement based on the 2013 court ruling. The Minister wrote to Civil Service Commission. Fifteen members of the Civil Service Commission met and wrote to HoS, advising the Ministry of Interior to look into my petition. At the Ministry of Interior, a 25-member committee reviewed the case and said even if I did not come with court papers, they will reinstate me because they could not establish any misconduct against me. The HoS, upon being satisfied with the letter from the Ministry of Interior, further wrote her advice to the Civil Service Commission, which gave approval for my reinstatement. A copy of the approval was sent to the HoS, who also signed and sent to my Ministry, who gave me a letter of reinstatement. As a civil servant, I rose through the ranks since my employment on level 8. I was ashamed when I heard of what she said during the controversy.
Why didn’t you resume after the court order for your reinstatement since 2013?
I couldn’t return to work because of my safety. It was after the emergence of this government, when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Dubai, that I was invited to meet him at his hotel. It was while I met them at the hotel that I was told to meet the Minister of Justice for the first time in my life and some other cabinet members, including the National Security Adviser, whom I already knew, for a meeting. They asked me to return and work for their government. There and then, I accessed my computer and worked out formula for them. They came back home and found N1.3 trillion in a hidden account they never believed there is money in. I am happy when I read in the social media; someone said I should be given the 5 per cent for whistle blowing of all the money I helped to recover. I have files of money collected by EFCC and other operatives for all their travels, nobody arrested them. I also have the file of money spent by the HoS. There is nowhere my signature was found in it. Look, those people do not want me to meet with President Buhari because they are afraid I will expose their atrocities; that is why they want to silence me at all cost.