Maina’s reinstatement won’t dent Buhari’s image – AGF
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said that most of the noise being generated by the reinstatement of the chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the federal civil service is media hype.
He added that it would not in any way dent the reputation of President Muhammadu Buhari and his anti-corruption war.
Malami also said he told President Buhari about his meeting with the wanted Maina, long before the news of Maina’s reinstatement was made public.
He, however, said he did not inform the President prior to the meeting.
Malami said this in the latest issue of The Interview a magazine published monthly.
Asked if he did not think the reinstatement of Maina would affect the image of President and his anti-corruption war, Malami said, “Where is the corruption element in the reinstatement of Maina, assuming without conceding that Maina was indeed reinstated? Are you insinuating that certain corrupt undertones were prevailing? What damage is there against the President as far as this scenario is and pension syndicate is concerned?”
Also asked if he would resign due to the Maina saga, Malami said he would never do so.
The minister added, “It boils down to whether I have indeed acted or I have not. If hundreds of Mainas that believe they had information to offer as far as the protection of the national interest is concerned, I will meet them and I will do so again.”
Malami said he did not directly ensure the reinstatement of Maina. But when asked why he kept the information secret from the public, he said he decided to do so because of the cynicism of Nigerians.
The AGF said after meeting with Maina in Dubai, he returned home and then briefed the President on the information he received from the fugitive and asked Buhari how they could make use of the information given to them by Maina.
Malami said, “At the time the meeting was held (with Maina), Mr. President was not aware. But much later, after we returned back home, I took Mr. President into confidence about the information and sought for leave to share it with other agencies with the purpose of blocking leakages.
“That was the extent to which the President was aware of the information. He came to be aware of the meeting with Maina much later. It was out of the desire to seek for his directives relating to the information in terms of its application for the purpose of blocking leakages associated with the looting of pension funds.”
The minister also revealed that the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), was also present at the meeting with Maina in Dubai.
Malami said, “The NSA and I met with him (Maina) at the reception of the Emirate Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. He came along with his wife. We were not aware that he was in the company of his wife. He later told me that he was apprehensive, so his wife was lurking around and in the case of any eventuality, she could relate what actually happened. So we discussed.
“The discussion happened to be very meaningful, particularly from the point of national interest. It was a time that Maina intimated us to the fact that there exists a cartel, a syndicate within the pension scheme.
“The truth of the matter is that what was been paid as pension on a monthly basis was around N5bn or so. But the actual figure required for pension settlement per month was within the range of N1.3bn. The implication of what he was saying was that around N3.7bn or so went into personal pockets.”
The AGF said Maina told him that that there were 66 accounts that were being used to divert pension funds, adding that the pension syndicate had bought a section of the media.
He said on returning to Nigeria, investigations revealed that most of the information provided by Maina was right as it led to the conviction of two individuals and the recovery of looted funds while 12 other cases were pending.
Malami, however, did not reveal the identities of the convicts.
When asked why the Federal Government had refused to release the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the AGF said the overall interest of the public must be considered before obeying court orders.
He said this was the same reason the embattled former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), was being kept in custody despite several court orders.
The AGF said when El-Zakzaky was eventually charged to court, part of his trial would be held in secret.
Malami added, “Even in court, when the need arises, for certain information not to be made available to the public, an application could be made for a kind of off-camera proceedings.