The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, granted a very interesting interview to The Interview magazine. Considerable amount of time was spent drilling Malami on his role in the recall and promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina, whether he has any regrets, and what Pres. Muhammadu Buhari knew about the incident and when.
Below are our takeaways from the interview:
- We begin with Malami’s story on how it all began, how he came to meet Maina and set off the saga which has become one of the most quoted scandals on the Muhammadu Buhari presidency –
“I played a role of public interest. The truth of the matter is that sometime in January 2016, I had cause to travel the United Arab Emirates as part of the entourage of Mr. President… It was during that trip that Maina made frantic efforts to meet with Mr. President. Incidentally, he was not accorded that opportunity and as he told me, it was suggested to him that he could not have access to the President, he could consider talking to the Attorney General who was part of the entourage. He succeeded in getting my number through the associated staff, who was also part of the entourage. And then he kept calling. I did not have his number because we never had cause to engage in life. The calls were incessant and I felt I should pick it. He introduced himself but not by name. It was by being a Nigerian, who was interested in meeting with you as the Attorney General and offer you very useful information that could be of help to the government in its drive relating to the fight against corruption. That was how it started.
“I did not in all sincerity give him the go ahead to see me. I was just contemplating whether to meet with who was calling or not. Eventually he called back to introduce himself as Maina. When he now mentioned the name Maina, the controversy being generated about his person back home immediately rang a bell in my memory.
“I equally developed interest particularly because he talked of information that was of public interest. The office of Attorney General is saddled with the responsibility of sustenance of the public interest as against individual interest.
- Who were those aware of his plan to meet up with Maina and what were their positions:
The two people he told were the DG of the State Security Services, Lawal Daura, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and they both were on board.
“I felt I should perhaps discuss and seek the clearance of certain security agencies for the purpose of operating on the side of caution. That was how eventually, I decided to call on the DG of State Security Service for a second opinion as to whether or not to allow for a meeting with Maina. He suggested to me that it was a good idea considering that it was of public interest. But he suggested to me that I should look for a third party to part of our meeting. Coincidentally, the National Security Adviser was equally part of the entourage. I mentioned it to him and decided eventually to meet with Maina.
“The NSA and I met with him 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 any eventuality, she could relate what actually happened. So we discussed.”
- Was President Muhammadu Buhari in on this plot to meet a fugitive from justice?
“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 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.”
- Malami says his meeting with Maina was very useful, and he describes the former Pensions boss as a patriotic Nigerian who just wanted to help with no strings attached. He said Maina told him of a pensions cartel and it turned out he was right.
“The discussion happened to be very meaningful, particularly from the point of national interest. 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. He provided detailed information in that respect. And he equally intimated me that there existed 66 accounts that were being used in that respect. He also confided in me that the pension syndicate had taken control of a sizable portion of the media. And in fact, they were targeting people that were adverse to their cause, rubbishing them, including the investigators that were working on the pension scheme. He confided in me that there was an attempt on his life, when he had fallen out of favor with the syndicate. Back home, I looked at the information. I shared it within the government circle. We took advantage of the information provided by him and it turned out to be substantially and factually correct as it relates to a pensions syndicate. And also as it relates to ghost pensioners within the pension scheme. And it turned out to be beneficial as it reduced the pension wage by a sizable degree, that is N5bn to N1.3bn accordingly. So that is what happened. But one thing I want to put across clearly is the fact that our discussions with Maina were without any strings attached. He simply came to me as a patriotic Nigerian desirous of providing information that could be beneficial to the government.”
- Okay. So if there were no strings attached and no conditions were placed and he did not ask to be reinstated into the civil service, who made the decision to reinstate him?
Well it turns out that it was not so unconditional afterall because Maina, according to the Attorney-General, “sent in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General seeking to be reinstated and attached a copy of the judgement which he claimed to have obtained and some orders as well.”
“There was an order to the effect that he should be removed from the watch-list. There was a judgement in respect of a warrant of arrest issued against him by the National Assembly which was set aside. His lawyer now asked the office of the Attorney General to now give consequential effect to the community reading of those judgements. A consequential effect in the sense that Maina was dismissed or claimed that he was dismissed from service on account of his absence from duty and his absence was translated to the issuance of a bench warrant by the National Assembly. His argument was that since his dismissal was a product of the warrant of arrest, which was eventually nullified, the dismissal from service cannot stand. That was the argument of his lawyer in the letter. And then on the basis of that argument, he was craving for the intervention of the office of the Attorney General for him to be reinstated back in service.
“As is the tradition in the office of the Attorney General, upon receipt of the letter, I now instructed a line officer to look at the claims, judgement, the orders and the letter of the lawyer and advise the Attorney General accordingly. The line officer responded much later and then arrived at the conclusion that consequential effect could indeed be given to the judgement attached by Maina’s lawyer. My mind was not settled on his conclusion and I now minuted back to him and asked him to canvass the argument as to how nullification of the warrant of arrest could translate to reinstatement.
“There was no further correspondence from the line officer for about two months or so. He now developed a new memo. This time around, he was suggesting that there existed a pending case before the National Industrial Court that was again instituted but Maina as at the time Maina was dismissed from service. The lawyer now developed further argument that by the principles of law that when a matter is pending in court, parties must refrain from further action. So he now suggested that the community reading of the two; the fact that a warrant of arrest was issued that was issued was nullified by a judgement of the court and the fact that as of the time the warrant of arrest was issued, there was a pending case at the National Industrial Court, I should see reason in justifying, directing or perhaps recommending the reinstatement of Maina back into service. But then, the court processes referred to in the subsequent memo were not attached to the opinion. I now minuted back to the line officer directing that he should provide the court processes. That was it. There was no further correspondence from the line officer up till when the story came in the media space that Maina was indeed reinstated.”
- Malami insisted throughout the interview that he did not reinstate Maina despite the fact that several correspondences from his office had shown that it was him who pushed for it. So who did it?
“The Attorney-General pointed out that as far as his office was concerned, the reinstatement was work in progress, but pointed out that the responsibility of reinstating Maina in the event that there is need for so doing lies with the Civil Service Commission and the Head of the Civil Service.
“One thing I could remember very well is that I wrote a letter to the Civil Service Commission, developing certain questions and seeking information there, which were intended to assist the office of the Attorney General to arrive at a decision. I demanded for copies of the court processes with a view to look into them. I equally requested for the development of further argument relating to the claim of Maina’s lawyer. So in arriving at a decision, naturally the office of the Attorney General takes a lot of factors into consideration. That is why I said it was work in progress. My query as to how the nullification of the warrant of arrest will translate to reinstatement, my request for court processes, my letter to the Civil Service Commission seeking clarification in respect of certain areas; were all intended to allow the Attorney General look into multiple factors that were of some relevance or consequence to respond to the lawyer.”
- Considering how much damage this saga has caused to the reputation of the president, would Malami consider resigning?
“Resign at the instance of a media hype, at the instance of a pension syndicate that I believe I should prosecute? I genuinely believe this is just a media hype with a lot of political undertones. 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?
“The office of the Attorney General is the custodian of public interest and if the public interest demands that I should bring Maina back for the purpose of enhancing the capacity of the office to prosecute the pension syndicate, I could unilaterally exercise that decision. That decision has been vested in the office of the Attorney General.”
- On whether he would have acted differently considering the controversy, Malami said: “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.”