Trail Reporters

13th February 2013, the Senate gave the President a two-day ultimatum within which to sack the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, from the Federal Civil Service. Mark spoke tough after a debate on a motion entitled, “Dismissal of Mr Abdulrasheed Maina for refusal to appear before the Senate” sponsored by Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) and 107 senators, urging Jonathan to sack Maina from the public service.

The upper legislative chamber said Jonathan risked dire consequences if he failed to end Maina’s tenure. 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,” Mark told his colleagues.

Apparently mindful of the fact that he was sending a message not only to the Villa but also to Nigerians since it was in the full glare of media cameras, Mark threw a challenge to the Police about whether they would be on the side of the law or that of Maina, “This Senate is not going to allow this to linger, if in two days they (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. We have been pushed to the wall. 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.”

Earlier, the Chairman and the Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senators Aloysius Etok and Kabiru Gaya, gave accounts of their experiences with Maina. Gaya said the committee received 7,800 petitions during its assignment and that Maina coordinated the process of mismanaging pension funds. An exasperated Etok said of Maina, “We called him to account for his stewardship in all the offices he was overseeing. 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 bulletproof 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.”

Maina was a true ‘fat cat’, seemingly untouchable. At the time the Senate was debating him, Maina was being driven around town, including to Aso Rock, in a convoy of several vehicles with a retinue of policemen. It was the one scandal that made many conclude that the Jonathan administration did not ‘give a damn’ about public perception. After his failure to honour numerous invitations by the senate joint committee, the upper legislative chamber ultimately issued a warrant for Maina’s arrest, prosecution and sack.

Days later, the House of Representatives followed suit and endorsed the decision of the senate for Maina’s arrest and prosecution. The lawmakers said in a motion that the House was “conscious of the need to present a common front with respect to the institutional integrity of the National Assembly” as they were “aware of the need to send a strong signal to the executive arm of the government of the resolve of the national assembly to stop impunity and disregard of due process in the conduct of government business.”

The President eventually caved in and gave the go-ahead for disciplinary action to be taken against Maina, who was dismissed by the Head of Service for absconding from duty and evading arrest. It was too little, too late. The harm to the administration was already done. Explaining why he had to adopt a tough stance on the issue, Mark told me that the senate committee had invited Maina several times and he would not come. “You know he is a very loud fellow who talks too much. He was all over the place, boasting about his connection to the Presidential Villa and he 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 I decided on the letter to the President,” Mark disclosed.


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