The House of Representatives has invited the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, in connection with the investigation into the reinstatement of the former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
An ad hoc committee of the House chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kano State, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, is conducting the investigation.
Findings by The PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday showed that the panel also invited the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.); the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita; the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu; and the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye.
Maina, the main character, was invited by the committee as well.
The committee, acting on an October 24 resolution of the House, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the reinstatement of Maina into the federal civil service after the EFCC had initially been on his trail over alleged mishandling of pensions funds.
Maina was not only reinstated but also promoted to the position of an acting Director in the Ministry of Interior.
It was gathered on Thursday that the panel, having concluded its preliminary sittings, fixed the formal opening of the investigative hearing for next week.
“We are starting next week, possibly on Wednesday and the whole engagement will be broadcast live by the Nigerian Television Authority,” one National Assembly source informed The PUNCH on Thursday.
Investigations indicated that the panel had contacted Maina and the former pensions board chairman reportedly gave it the assurance that he would personally attend the hearing.
“He gave the committee his word that he will show up from wherever he is hiding,” one official disclosed.
When journalists sought the comments of Madaki, he confirmed that the hearing would open next week.
Madaki also confirmed the officials already invited.
In response to an electronic mail by one of our correspondents, Madaki wrote, “Hopefully, next week, and we expect the Minister of Justice; the Minister of Interior; the Head of Service; the Chairman, EFCC; the Chairman, ICPC; and Maina.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had since ordered the sacking of Maina from service.
The PUNCH dug into internal communications in the public service over the Maina saga and uncovered documents on how his reinstatement was initiated and finalised.
Investigations revealed that the Ministry of Interior, having looked into the alleged abuse of office by Maina in his handling of the pension funds, recommended his dismissal from service in February, 2013.
The recommendation was made by the Senior Staff Committee, a sort of disciplinary panel, which looked into his case.
On February 21, 2013, the Ministry of Interior, in letter Ref. No. MI/30040/1/39, communicated the decision to the Federal Service Management Committee.
The FSMC endorsed the recommendation and communicated to the Federal Civil Service Commission that Maina’s dismissal should be ratified.
Findings indicated that Malami later stepped in and ordered that the dismissal of Maina should be nullified.
An April 20, 2017 letter from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, addressed to the Ministry of Interior, asked for an update and the need to give urgent attention to the directive of the AGF.
The letter, with Ref. No. HCSF/LU/CORF/FCSC/749/III/95, read partly, “The Attorney General of the Federation, in the interpretation of the outcome of the case in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/65/13 between Abdulrasheed Maina Vs the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and forwarded to the Federal Civil Service Commission, nullified the decision of the Senior Staff Committee of the Ministry of Interior.
“It is in consideration of the above that the FCSC has requested the review of the decision of the Senior Staff Committee of the Ministry of Interior to enable the commission to take informed decision.”
The letter was signed by Mrs. Nuratu Batagarawa, a permanent secretary in the office of the Head of Service.
Following the development, the Senior Staff Committee met on June 22, 2017, reviewed Maina’s case and recommended the reversal of his earlier dismissal.
Meanwhile, the Senate ad hoc committee set up to investigate the controversial reinstatement of Maina into the civil service of the Federal Government, on Thursday again drilled Malami behind closed doors.
It was the second time Malami would appear before the committee this week, while the venue was changed twice.
The Thursday meeting between the panel and the minister was held in the office of the committee chairman, Emmanuel Paulker.
On Tuesday, Malami and Dambazau appeared before the panel behind closed doors after the venue was changed from Room 224 to a much larger Conference Room 231.
The Senate panel had sent journalists out of the venue of its meeting with officials of the Federal Civil Service Commission last Wednesday.
Paulker, after the meeting with Malami on Thursday, pointed out that the investigative hearing was shifted to his office based on his discretion.
The lawmaker said the committee chose to conduct the drills in camera as it did not want the media to “colour” the probe.
He added that the closed-door sessions would allow the panel to conduct a thorough probe.
Paulker said, “It is at my discretion to hold the meeting in my office. All the four chairmen of the committees were present. We don’t want a situation whereby media report will dictate our report. The closed-door session will allow us to do thorough investigation on the matter.
“Nothing will be swept under the carpet; the truth of the matter will come out at the end of our investigation and the report will be submitted before Christmas.”
At the Tuesday meeting with Malami, Paulker had said it would be held behind closed doors to allow both sides to freely express themselves.
Last week, the committee invited members of the Senate Press Corps to the investigative hearing through a letter from the Clerk, Mrs. Edith Ajah, dated November 8, 2017.
Paulker however asked journalists to leave the venue after officials of the FCSC and the Ministry of Interior had introduced themselves.