NIGERIA: How Senate threatened Jonathan before he sacked Maina – David Mark

Fugitive former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, projected himself as very powerful and untouchable under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan that the Senate had to issue a threat before the president consented to his dismissal from the federal civil service.

A former Senate President, David Mark, was quoted as saying this in a book, Against the Run of Play, written by the chairman of the Editorial Board of ThisDay Newspaper, Olusegun Adeniyi.

The book provides a glimpse into the power-play between the David Mark-led Senate and the Jonathan administration, as lawmakers mounted a spirited effort to get Mr. Maina sanctioned.

Mr. Maina returned to news last week after PREMIUM TIMES uncovered he had been surreptitiously reinstated by the Buhari administration despite being on wanted list for years. President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered he be disengaged.

Both chambers of the National Assembly have also launched separate investigations into the matter.

Speaking with Mr. Adeniyi in an interview for the book, Mr. Mark narrated why the Senate had to threaten former President Jonathan before Mr. Maina was sacked in 2013.

The Senate took the step after Mr. Maina ignored several summons to appear before a Senate committee probing allegations of his mismanagement of pension funds as chairman of the presidential task force.

“You know he is a very loud fellow who talks too much,” Mr. Mark was quoted in the book as saying about Mr. Maina.

“He was all over the place, boasting about his connection to the Presidential Villa and kept on bluffing the Senate.

“To compound the issue, he was indeed seen driving in and out of Aso Rock in a convoy of vehicles with police escort. It was at a point when I couldn’t take the nonsense any longer that that I decided on the letter to the President,” Mr. Mark disclosed.

The Senate on February 13, 2013 given then President Jonathan a two-day ultimatum to sack Mr. Maina from the civil service.

The ultimatum was issued following a motion titled: “Dismissal of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina for refusal to appear before the Senate”, sponsored by the then Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, and 107 senators.

Unanimously adopting the motion, which demanded the sack of Mr. Maina, the Senate warned Mr. Jonathan that “dire consequences” would follow if he failed to sack Mr. Maina.

Speaking following the adoption of the motion, Mr. Mark declared that the Senate as an institution had been pushed to the wall and could no longer tolerate the insolence of public officials working for the executive.

”The Executive has to choose between the Senate and Maina. He has crucified himself. If Maina remains, then the Senate would react appropriately. The Senate is not lacking in ideas on what to do. Nobody in this country is bigger than our democracy. I have been extremely patient with Maina, so that when we react, they will know that we have been fair,” Mr. Mark told his colleagues at plenary.

The then Senate President also charged the police to arrest Mr. Maina over his repeated refusal to honour the invitation of the Senate committee and to prosecute him for allegedly stealing pension funds.

“This Senate is not going to allow this to linger. If in two days they (the police) have not done anything, we can come here and convene and take a decision. This Senate will bite when it needs to bite, and when we decide to bite, there will be no room for escape,” Mr. Mark stated.

“The reaction is the correct reaction; no matter the depth of the Maina situation, nobody in this country will be left to go free, if he is associated with Maina. No matter who is behind Maina, we are not going to accept it.”

Giving the background to the motion and Mr. Mark’s speech, Mr. Adeniyi recalled in the book that the co-Chairmen of the Joint Senate Committee, Alloysius Etok and Kabiru Gaya, had told the Senate that their committee had received 7,800 petitions while investigating how Mr. Maina mismanaged pension funds.

“We called him to account for his stewardship in all the offices he was overseeing,” Mr. Etok said.

“When we exposed some things, he decided not to appear again. Instead of appearing before the committee, he would go on the media, condemning the entire Senate. He said he was not given fair hearing, but when we offered him fair hearing, he refused.

“He drives two bullet-proof cars, in a country where pensioners are hungry. He used N1 billion for jamboree in the name of verification abroad. He spends more than N8 million every two weeks on personal security,” the senator told his colleagues at the plenary.

Some days after, the House of Representatives also resolved to endorse the decisions of the Senate on Mr. Maina.

The House said it was necessary to send a strong signal to the Executive that the National Assembly was united against impunity and disregard for due process in the conduct of government business.

Following the strong stance of the National Assembly, Mr. Jonathan directed the Head of Service to sack Mr. Maina for absconding from duty and evading arrest.

It was not until more than two years later, however, in November 2015 that the Economic and Crimes Commission declared Mr. Maina wanted.

But Mr. Maina evaded arrest and was believed to have fled abroad. Although INTERPOL also launched a manhunt for him, he stayed out of sight until he resurfaced last month in an elevated position in the civil service, under murky circumstances.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson of Mr. Maina’s extended family, Aliyu Maina, alleged at a press conference in Kaduna that the President Buhari administration invited the fugitive back to the civil service to “assist it in reforming the pension sector. The presidency swiftly denied the allegation.

Following Mr. Maina’s sack on Monday on the order of President Buhari, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazzau, who has been accused of complicity in the reinstatement of the fugitive to service, directed him to report himself to the EFCC.

Mr. Maina has, however, as usual ignored the directive.

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