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Mainagate: Discordant tunes as Reps’ probe gets underway

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More revelations, accusations, counter accusations and denials dominate the investigations of the House of Representatives into the reinstatement and promotion of former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force (PRTF), Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina. PHILIP NYAM reports

For the past two weeks, the House of Representatives ad hoc committee led by Hon. Aliyu Madaki investigating the disappearance, reappearance, reinstatement and promotion of former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force (PETF), Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina has had a deluge of submissions and testimony from different stakeholders amidst drama that could best be described as a circuit show. Although, the committee is yet to conclude its assignment, there are facts that have remained unassailable.

First, it is a fact that Maina was chairman of PRTF; that he was declared wanted and subsequently dismissed from the civil service. Secondly, it is undisputable that Maina actually returned to the country and was reinstated into the civil service and also promoted to the rank of a director. However, no one seems to be ready to take responsibility for the reinstatement and promotion of a man who has again escaped arrest from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The most intriguing part of the revelations took place last week, when almost all the key security actors appeared before the House committee. In spite of the fact that and the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawan Daura; the Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita and Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had all testified before the committee, it is still difficult to ascertain how Maina, a wanted man was reinstated and promoted to the position of a director.

A week earlier, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had appeared alongside the HOSF, where they all exonerated themselves. EFCC’s disclosure The anti-graft agency did not spare Maina in its submission before the committee. According to Magu, who made a personal appearance, “Maina was part of the pension syndicate and benefitted immensely from the scam.”

He told the committee that N1.7 billion was traced to an account belonging to Maina’s son, Faysal. Shedding more light on how much Maina made illegally from the PRTF, Magu disclosed that in one account, he had N2.7 billion, while his son Faysal, has an account with a turnover of N1.7 billion. He also revealed that the embattled pension head purchased a property in Abuja for $200 million. Magu dismissed assertions by Maina that the anti-graft commission is in custody of the funds and properties recovered by the pension task team.

“Maina didn’t hand over any assets to the commission, if he has done so, let him come and prove it,” he said. He further challenged Maina to provide evidence of submission of asset if he continues to claim to have returned any. He challenged anyone with a contradictory evidence to tender it publicly.

“If Maina or any government official witnessed the sharing of any recovered pension assets by any official of the EFCC, they should be willing to name the official, the assets involved; when and where the sharing took place,” Magu said. Continuing, Magu said: “For the avoidance of doubt, there are no 222 properties anywhere that were shared by anybody. The EFCC did not receive a single property from Abdulrasheed Maina.” He added that the pension fraud asset that are in the recovered assets inventory of the commission “were products of independent investigation by the EFCC.”

The Immigration angle In his own testimony, the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammed Baba Dende, disclosed that Maina is an American citizen as he carries both the Nigerian and American passports. He added that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has no records of Maina’s movement in recent time, except he used an illegal route, which was an offence even as he revealed that the service received a letter in December 2015 to remove his name from the stop list.

Finance minister’s stance Also testifying before the committee, Minister of fFnance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said there was no trace of any payment of salary to Maina after he was disengaged from service in 2013. “We have looked very well and we have no biometrics of Maina, so there is no way he could have received salaries,” she said.

Collaborating the ministers submission, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, told the committee that Maina was last paid salary in February, 2013. Permanent secretary’s double speak In a twist however, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Engr. Abubakar Magaji tended to accept responsibility for Maina’s reinstatement, when owned up to all the administrative lapses leading to the “erroneous” reinstatement and promotion of Maina. Magaji, who admitted this in response to evidence-based questions directed at him by members of the committee, made a u-turn having first indicted the HoSF (Mrs. Oyo- Ita), was responsible for the letter directing Maina’s reinstatement.

However, Oyo-Ita in her defence, marveled at the submission by the permanent secretary. Magaji, who noted that he was not in the ministry when Maina was dismissed, also disclosed that the ministry conducted a senior staff committee meeting following a letter asking that Maina be reinstated. He added that the representatives of the office of the HoSF and the Federal Civil Service Commission were present at the meeting.

He, however, insisted that Maina was not documented neither was he paid salaries. “After the reinstatement, Maina came to me, but I told him that I can’t place him on salary until I get further instructions.

He was never documented nor does he have an office” In his presentation, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, insisted that the last time Maina received salary was in February 2013, adding that from March of the same year, he was removed from the payroll of the Federal Government. He informed that following reports that Maina was earning salaries, he checked the system to determine its authenticity, but found nothing.

“From our records, the last time Maina received salary was in February 2013. From March 2013, his name was removed from the payroll; I don’t know where he is getting his salary from. I even did a test run by inputting his name in different forms but nothing came up. Salaries are paid through Pay slips; he couldn’t have been paid through the air,” Idris said.

DSS’s position Appearing before the House ad hoc committee, the Director General of DSS (Daura) said his agency had no role in the reinstatement of Maina. He said the former pension taskforce boss was not arrested by the service in the past because there was no direction to that effect. Daura further disclosed that the AGF (Malami) had earlier sought his advice to meet with Maina following which he advised him to do so with the presence of a third party.

“The Attorney General of the Federation sometime in 2016 or 2015, because it was not through a formal document, placed a call to me when he was outside the country. He wanted me to advise him whether to agree to see Maina or not in that foreign country. I responded that he should accept to see Maina, but he should not see him alone. He should see him with a third party, which he did.”

According to Daura, the DSS provided security for Maina’s after he wrote a letter to the agency, claiming that his life is in danger. “The letter was scrutinised and fears expressed by Maina were also to a large extent established. Because of the right to life, which is guaranteed by our constitution and universally recognised, Maina’s case was directed to be looked into so as not to allow his life to be in jeopardy,” he said.

The DSS DG insisted that no agency has written to the DSS seeking to arrest Maina, and added that the agency had nothing to do with his reinstatement. Expectedly, more drama is expected as the ad hoc committee continues with its investigation, but analysts are of the view that the truth will definitely be established and those behind the reinstatement and promotion of Maina would be unmasked. The committee’s report is expected before the end of the year.

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Zuma: Bleak future after power

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He survived eight previous attempts to remove him as president, but he caved in at the ninth time. Will Jacob Zuma face the music after his inglorious exit or not? WALE ELEGBEDE writes on the uncertain future of the once-upon-a-time charismatic leader

 

He is simply known as Jacob Zuma but his middle Zulu name is Gedleyihlekisa, which translates “one who smiles while causing you harm.” But with his premature resignation last week, it appears that the smiles on his face have ceased.

Piling up scandals upon scandal in his nearly a decade tenure, last week’s resignation of Zuma as the fourth president of South Africa wasn’t exactly a surprise to many, but the big puzzle was how and why it took so long. In a 30-minute national television address, the scandal-tainted Zuma said he had “come to the decision to resign as President of the republic with immediate effect.”

His party, the African National Congress (ANC), had threatened to eject him from office via a parliamentary vote-of-no-confidence. But with these words, he dropped his mandate “I have come to the decision to resign as the president of the republic with immediate effect.

No leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people who they serve. No leader should seek an easy way out simply because they could not face life without the packs that come with the political office. I do not fear exiting political office.”

He noted further that, “I did not agree to exit with packs and benefits. It is my party that placed me before the representatives of the people to be elected. It is my party that availed me to serve on basis of the Constitution.

“I respect the prescripts of the constitution on how we enter and exit political office. I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.

I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment.“I thank citizens of South Africa for the privilege of serving as president since 2009. It has been an honour that I will cherish as long as I live. I wish to thank members of the cabinet, deputy ministers, and the whole government.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, an anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader and businessman, who was until last Thursday, Deputy President but ANC ‘sPresident, was subsequently inaugurated in Zuma’s stead as the fifth president of South Africa. Born on April 12, 1942, in Nkandla, a rural hamlet in KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma had an extraordinary political journey despite his humble beginning.

Popularly called ‘JZ’, the uneducated youngster was raised by his widowed mother. He joined the ANC at the age of 17 and became an active member of its military wing – uMkhonto we Sizwe, in 1962.

Convicted of conspiring to over-throw the apartheid government as a member of the ANC military, Zuma spent his 20s in jail alongside Nelson Mandela for the alleged crime. When he was eventually released in 1973, Zuma fled to Mozambique, which is a neighbouring country to South Africa, and there he recruited and trained young South Africans to fight in the ANC’s underground movement.

Perhaps, he got inclined to armed struggle following the time he spent in Russia as a guest of the Soviets. His return to South Africa in 1990 collided with when the political ban was lifted on the ANC and he drew support from trade unions and other parties with his gospel of wealth redistribution from rich white South Africans to poor blacks.

Expectedly, his populist policies gained ground and he became popular. He was subsequently elected the ANC’s deputy president and by 1999 he was the deputy president of the country. Zuma, who said his “education” was at the feet of the elders on Robben Island, became Thabo Mbeki’s deputy in 1999, when Nelson Mandela declined a second term.

He had looked fine and had appeared to be headed to succeed his boss, as the latter had successfully succeeded Mandela, but the cookie bust in 2005 when Mbeki sacked him.

His personal financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found to have bribed Zuma to win a $5 billion government weapons contract. Interestingly, Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but fraud charges against Zuma were dropped on a legal technicality. But like a cat with nine lives, Zuma bounced back.

With Mbeki falling out of with members of ANC, it was an auspicious time for Zuma to have his pound of flesh on him. He skillfully seized the moment and cut his way to the presidency with the assistance of ANC Youth League and Cosatu. He first ousted Mbeki as the president of the ANC in 2007 and 18 months later, president of South Africa. When questioned on his supposed influence in the removal of Mbeki, he said: “I was one of those who said we should not recall Mbeki, because we would create a bad precedent. Of course, I was defeated by the majority.”

But with time, Zuma’s presidency began to deteriorate as he was increasingly becoming both politically and morally corrupt. Notable among his unforced errors was the usage of government funds amounting to $20 million for renovations of his sprawling family estate. On the general stead, Zuma presided over an era of increasing economic inequality, with high unemployment and extreme poverty in the country.

His infamous rape trial is still fresh in the minds of South Africans. For many people all over the world, it was a painful trial to watch. Although he was acquitted of the charges, his infamous defence for having sex with an HIV positive woman still remains a classic for any day.

He admitted knowing the health status of the victim, but said he had a shower after the exercise, implying that he washed away whatever could have infected him. Already, analysts have sketched several scenarios for Zuma.

These include prosecution over series of corruption charges and then securing a presidential clemency from his successor, Ramaphosa. Zuma may also face charges over state corruption arising from his links to a controversial Indian business family, the Guptas.

There are reports that the National Prosecuting Authority is going to recommend that some of the charges against Zuma be reinstated, having lined up more than 200 witnesses to testify against him. He also is likely to face 18 main charges of racketeering, corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud related to the arms-deal corruption involving his former financial adviser – Schabir Shaik.

South African media has reported that Zuma’s sons have extensive business interests in Dubai and have received personal guarantees from the UAE’s leaders. What it means is that Zuma and his family would likely be beyond the reach of South African prosecutors in the sunny emirate.

Some also averred that he may also quietly disappear into retirement in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal – or even skip the country. Whilst there is a high probability that Zuma may soon have his day in court, one thing is however clear, he might have quit the presidency, but he is by no means gone from the South African political arena.

 

 

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APC reconciliation: Kalu urges Tinubu to fast-track process

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  …canvases support for state police

 

Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has lauded the appointment of the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as chairman of the party’s National Reconciliation Committtee, but urged him to accelerate efforts at reconciling aggrieved members.

Kalu said there could be no better time for Tinubu to carry out the onerous task given the confidence President Muhamadu Buhari reposes him in bringing some feuding members of the party on the path of reconciliation.

Fielding questions from reporters on arrival from Abuja late Sunday night at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), Ikeja, Lagos, Kalu said it does not augur well for a serving governor and a minster, who are members of the ruling party to have political difference at a time they should be galvanizing support for Buhari’s re- election bid. His words:” I have reported this to the highest authority of the party that it is not proper for a governor and a minister in Oyo State to go two parallel ways.

It is not to the benefit of the President and neither is it to the benefit of the party. It is not the benefit of Nigerians; the synergy needed to accelerate cohesion in the ruling party will not be there.

“We need to thank Mr. Presidentfor his wisdom in giving the mandate to the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu , the opportunity to reconcile members of the party.

I am very excited that such a thing is happening and I am confident it will be a good beginning for my brother and friend, Tinubu to execute the reconciliation task very well. I am confident Tinubu will be blunt to settle feuding members of the APC.”

Kalu reaffirmed that Buhari is ready to run for 2019, unless he is convinced otherwise on the grounds of health. He said President, whom he described as an honest man will tell Nigerians at the right time whether he will seek re- election or not.

He said: “Buhari is an honest man, if he is interested in running, he will tell Nigerians that he will run. We pray that his health gets better and that his doctors give him a clean bill of health. You know Buhari is also a man of conscience, if he feels his health will not allow him to seek re- election; he will not go ahead.

But, if he feels he is capable of running, he will seek re-election. “Whatever Nigerians are taking about at this early stage, it is his decision, it his right, he is entitled to second term. Buhari is working. Have you seen the Second Niger Bridge, it is being constructed, so you see that though things are difficult, it could be better.” Kalu said though the people of the South-East have been cheated in many ways, the Buhari administration will provide a window for new beginning.

“Other parts of Nigeria have been cheating us since 1960, but today the issue is that we must build national cohesion. The problem with Nigeria is inability to build national cohesion by all stakeholders.

We are still talking about tribe, where people come from, what people think about their religion. “We need to impress it on all Nigerians that we need a country where all stakeholders feel a sense of belonging.

Not minding where they come from or where they live, they should feel at home wherever they are. The earlier we have that sense of belonging the better for all of us.” The former governor added that it would be the right thing to allow the South- East take a shot at the presidency in 2023. He said the call for Igbo presidency in 2023 by some political gladiators in the North, only resonates with the principle of fairness .

“It is the right thing to do; igeria is built on a tripod, when you allow the South- East to have the presidency by 2023, that will be the end of the civil war. The South- East has had the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector General of Police. So it is only natural for the zone to have the presidency.

“No man has the capacity to divide this country; the country will fight such a man. It is not possible, so the fear in the minds of people that the Igbo are pushing for secession only amounts to imbalance in perception.

“Take a look at Lagos State, the Igbo have over 50 per cent of investment here, go to Abuja, it is almost 70 per cent. So, where are the Igbo going to? All these things are just blackmail. We should stop blackmailing ourselves.

An Igbo president will bring prosperity to Nigeria, because they have the capacity for business and investment in areas outside their homeland.” On the statement credited to Alhaji Junaid Mohammed that the elite in the North will not support Buhari’s bid for a second term, Kalu said there is nothing to worry about elite conspiracy, as Buhari will get the support of the masses. “If the elite refuse to support Buhari, the masses will support him. The elite are few in number.

Those who will support Buhari are the masses and who sincerely believe in Buhari. “By my assumption, If President Buhari had 12.5 million supporters in the last general elections, there is an additional 10 million supporters in the bank.

That is what we call reserve, it is still there, he said” Kalu said the time is ripe for the endorsement of state police affirming that he had canvassed the model since 1999 when he was elected governor of Abia State. Citing the model adopted when he was governor, Kalu said state police alongside other security agencies will deal with some criminal activities while the federal police handles very serious security infractions. His words: “State police should be able to handle local issues.

It will be very difficult for anyone to use state police to intimidate aggrieved political opponents. The state police commissioner should not be appointed by the federal government, but should be directly elected by the people.

“State police will not be anybody’s stooge. Sincerely, state police will be part of the ingredients that will complement Nigeria’s unity and democracy. “Let me sound a warning to governors that will use state police for their own selfish end, because the law is not so strong.

The laws of Nigeria should become strong; we should not be above the law. The beauty of any country is the independence of its judiciary, absence of such independence is arbitrariness, it is a dead end.

“Whenever there is recklessness on the part of the executive arm of government or rascality of the National Assembly, the judiciary serves as a check. Our judges should stand up to defend democracy and the peoples’ right.”

Kalu further said government needed to have a second look at issues bordering on open grazing and cattle colonies, which he according to him, is a disincentive to farming even as he called for a ban on palm oil importation into the country. On the ruling by the court, which restored his degree awarded by the Abia State University, Kalu said it is needless to discuss such issues, because he challenged the infraction by the Abia State government, which withheld his certificate.

“I went to court to challenge the maltreatment, I did not go to fight anybody with any weapon, I could have gone to fight, but I went to court to challenge the infringement on my right. This is what I want all Nigerians to be doing. The sanctity and strength of the judiciary is a strong pillar for Nigeria’s democracy.”

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Agina-Ude: How to boost anti-graft war

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A rights activist, Mrs. Ada Agina-Ude, is the Executive Director of Gender and Development Action (GADA). She speaks with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, on the anti-corruption war, women participation in politics and governance

Why did you pick interest in activism and how long have you being involved in defending the rights of the people?

 

By nature, I am somebody who is always on the side of the underdog. I don’t like seeing people suffer or face injustice. I cannot stand injustice. So, I have always had that urge to be on the side of people suffering any form injustice. That is one of the reasons why I decided to be an activist. Somehow, it is my area of interest. I decided to lend my voice generally for human rights in Nigeria and specifically for women, and I have been on it for over 20 years.

 

 

 

Considering what it takes to be a human rights activist in Nigeria and the consequence of fighting for the right of the people, are you not afraid of your life?

 

In every endeavour, there is always a risk. So, we pray to God and also believe that if you are doing what you know is right, you will have some fear, but the fear will not be too much. In my opinion, I think a majority of the people like what we are doing. I don’t really envisage too much danger because of the support we are getting. There is also support on the part of government like the support we are getting presently for working with the relevant agencies against corruption. So, what would be anybody’s reason to attack someone, who is helping him to achieve his agenda?

 

 

You are a member of Movement Against Corruption (MAC), what is your take on the anti-corruption war as being championed by the present administration?

 

My organisation has always been part of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. We belong to several groups that are committed to the fight against corruption, but we joined MAC because we believe there is a new dimension to the fight against corruption. The war against corruption has been going on for many years and apparently, there is still a gap somewhere. Even though I won’t say we have not achieved anything, we have not kill corruption and sound the death nail on the canker worm.

 

I believe the present government is fighting corruption. The only problem that I personally have and I have also had few people voice out, it is that we should apply a uniform standard, so that it will be clear to everybody concerned that there is no kind of discrimination or double standard in the fight. I know that there is a lot of commitment to the fight corruption, but we are expecting a greater achievement.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is a symbol of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Even if there is not much he can do as a person like going into the battle field or trenches; his presence alone as the president of this country and as somebody that most people within and outside Nigeria see as incorruptible is a plus to the war against corruption. And because we cannot say he has a skeleton in his cupboard, we see his own commitment to fight against corruption as genuine. So, he is going to inspire a lot of people.

 

 

What major areas do you think the Buhari administration should focus on?

 

The President should focus on the economy, fight against corruption, education and health. These are areas we have been hammering on for long because they are the areas we feel that government should direct attention to. But we are also aware that the problem with resolving some of these issues is also corruption because if a budget that is set aside for a particular sector is misused , there is no way you can achieve as much as you expect in that sector.

 

 

What is your take on non-implementation of 35 per cent affirmative action and the demand for increase in the number of women in elective positions?

 

The affirmative action that women are fighting for is affirmative action on elective positions. In many countries that have actually attained very high level of women participation in governance, they have used affirmative action in elective positions. So, that is the one we are fighting for. Our problem has always been women in parliament. How can we look at party processes so as to open the space for women to be elected into states and National Assembly? These are the areas that worry us too much. We need increase in number of women in elective positions, we need affirmative action.

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