By Dele Sobowale
“The Senate notes that the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms headed by Maina, in the course of discharging its mandate, recovered about 222 houses, hotels, investment portfolios and properties from pension fund suspects in Abuja and other major cities across the country.”
– Senator Emmanuel Paulker, Chairman Senate Committee investigating “Mainagate”.
One of the abiding mysteries of our world is what happens in that part of the South Atlantic called the Bermuda Triangle. Any aircraft, ship or submarine which enters the area has been known to vanish without trace.
Buhari might have created for himself his own equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle with his appointment of three individuals into three of the most sensitive posts in his government – the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, the Director General of the Department of State Services, DG-DSS and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The Senate investigation into what is now known as “Mainagate” has thrown up so many issues about each of these officials of the Buhari administration, as well as some others (National Security Adviser, Police and ICPC) as to threaten to wreck whatever is left of Buhari’s reputation as an indefatigable corruption fighter.
Already damaged by the manner in which the cases of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and the DG of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, were handled by Buhari himself, Mainagate has exposed two facts about the Buhari administration which would be impossible to refute.
Because Buhari in 2015, as in 1984, has repeatedly demonstrated that he values loyalty more than leadership, defined as competence and character, he has always appointed people whose intelligence and integrity are not good enough for some of us, for the job assigned to them.
In 2017 as in 1984, he headed home to Daura and Katsina, and added a few in-laws, to select his most trusted aides. In 1984-5, that resulted in the palace coup that brought his government down. He is at it again. The consequences of his penchant for nepotism are still to unfold as the revelations from Mainagate suggest that he might again be caught in a web of his own making on account of the three officers holding those positions.
In December 2015, an article was published titled IS THE DSS MISLEADING BUHARI AND GOVERNMENT? Three instances were cited in which the DSS made outlandish accusations against individuals which could not be substantiated. On account of these claims individual rights were violated and invasion of privacy occurred. Till today, none had been proved. That is not how professional security agencies work globally. Before the FBI, CIA, KGB or Scotland Yard accuses anyone of crime, they ensure they have a credible case to prosecute.
The same DSS is now deeply involved in Mainagate in two ways. First, it is no longer news that Mr Maina, still regarded as fugitive from law, was reinstated to his office and even promoted. It is also now public knowledge that the Police and the DSS allegedly provided extra-special security for a man accused of embezzling billions of naira from Pensioners. Nobody needs to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to understand that there must be concerns when a security chief allegedly approves the posting of his staff to an accused person.
Second, at the Senate hearing on Mainagate, Senator Paulker informed Nigerians that the EFCC, ICPC, DSS, Police and paramilitary agencies executed recoveries of properties procured by the alleged pension looters and took over the recovered assets. Granted, the EFCC took custody statutorily, the fact now remains that nobody knows which properties were recovered and where they are now. The suspicion now is that some officials of the task force might have shared them. The DSS should have blown the whistle to clear doubts?
Now we turn to the Minister of Justice and AGF, Mr Malami, SAN. The nation’s Chief Law Officer admitted that he met with Maina in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, in January 2016 after coming under pressure from Maina, in the company of the President’s National Security Adviser, NSA, General Babagana Magoro (rtd). The meeting occurred while the EFCC, under Buhari, still regarded Maina as a fugitive and was asking anybody knowing his whereabouts to report to the nearest police station. But, Buhari’s trusted AGF and NSA knew where the man was and failed to report to the police. Instead, they worked together to return the man to Nigeria and thereafter a series of tragic-comical measures were taken to reinstate the accused and even pay him arrears of salary – with promotion as an extra-dividend for a man who did not sit for promotional exams!! Buhari’s AGF was right in the know.
At the moment, Malami is denying giving final approval for reinstatement of Maina. But, that denial has been challenged by Mr Joseph Akande, Ag Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC, who pointed out that between January 19 and April 27, 2017, the FCSC received three letters from the AGF directing the reinstatement of Maina.
Thus we have on our hands, courtesy of Buhari’s poor judgment about people, an AGF who might have deliberately aided a fugitive to return home and escape arrest; got him reinstated and then perhaps went before the Senate to say things that are not particularly accurate about it. What happened to honour? As John Whittier, 1807-1892, had reminded us: “when faith is lost, when honour dies, the man is dead.”
Do we then have a walking corpse scenario here? When the mind turns to the EFCC Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, the heart bleeds for Buhari, for Magu, for his supporters and for Nigeria. He was inherited from the Jonathan administration which had committed the largest national robbery of all time in any nation. Under Jonathan, no single high-profile case moved forward from where his predecessors left them. Buhari did not need to retain Magu. But, he did and thereafter the nation has been treated to media publicity regarding amounts recovered, houses, lands, cars, properties and hotels seized. But, there has been no comprehensive report on how much money and what has happened to the assets claimed to have been seized. Buhari’s attempt to make him substantive Chairman of the EFCC was blocked by a security report from his “ever loving friends” at the DSS. His supporters who would rather have the Senate ignore the damning charges against have not forgiven the Senate, especially the Senate President, Saraki, for daring to turn down Magu’s nomination. They must have forgotten what Charles De Gaulle, 1890-1970 said that “The graveyards are full of indispensable people.”
Some people have a case to answer. Apparently two hundred and twenty two properties seized by the task force were handed to the EFCC. According to Senator Paulker, “The Senate further observed that the EFCC, as a member of the Maina-led pension task force team, had statutory powers to impound and take custody of assets. The Senate is alarmed that the total recovered assets from alleged pension thieves are reported to be allegedly shared by some interest groups.” This is Buhari’s government remember. And these are his top crime busters being accused of not being correct in all materials particular; aiding a wanted man to evade arrest; granting the same man immunity from arrest and prosecution and allegedly sharing seized assets (i.e re-looting the loot) which belongs to all Nigerians without Presidential rebuke or sanction.
Buhari’s reputation has entered the “Bermuda Triangle”. Will it survive it?
– This piece was written by Dele Sobowale/Vanguard