The Presidency on Thursday has said that President Goodluck Jonathan cannot sack the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, saying that his fate can only be decided according to civil service procedures since Maina is a civil servant, says the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
Another presidential spokesperson, Dr. Doyin Okupe has said that Maina’s case has been referred to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation by the Presidency, while the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, declared Maina still on the run.
This comes after the Senate on Wednesday gave Jonathan an ultimatum of two days, which ends today to sack Maina from the civil service, asking the President to choose between themselves and Maina, while also threatening that the legislature had teeth to bite.
“The executive has to choose between the Senate and Maina. He has crucified himself. If Maina remains, then the Senate would react appropriately,” Senate President, David Mark, had said after a debate on a motion entitled, “Dismissal of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina for refusal to appear before the Senate.”
The debate was sponsored by the Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), and 107 senators, urging Jonathan to sack Maina from the public service. The Senate has 109 members.
However, Abati said that Jonathan lacked powers to personally discipline as there is a laid-down procedure for it, and as a believer in due process, he had to follow that procedure.
“Maina is a civil servant. If he has done something that amounts to a breach of civil service rule, the appropriate office to do the right thing and ensure that due process is followed is the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.”
“There are laid down procedures for handling situations like this. The President believes in due process. We don’t have to worry ourselves. It is a matter for the civil service to handle. The President does not have to be disciplining civil servants personally. Nobody should suggest that the President is backing Maina. It is not an issue for the President.”
He said only the Head of Service of the Federation, Isa Saleh, could take any action on Maina.
Abati however acknowledged that the Senate had constitutional right to summon anybody and the right to declare such a person wanted if he failed to appear before the lawmakers.
“The Senate has constitutional power to summon anybody. If such a person fails to appear before them, the lawmakers are also empowered to issue a warrant of arrest against the person.
“The President has not in any way stood in the way of the Senate in inviting Maina. You will recall that the police even declared him wanted.”
Okupe however told journalists in Abuja, “The relationship with the leadership of the Senate and the President of the Senate is such that cannot be tampered with on the altar of favouritism to anybody.
“The President and the Presidency hold the leadership of the Senate in highest esteem and will not do anything to spoil that relationship.
“The issue of Maina has been referred to the head of service.
“Maina is a civil servant and I believe that the matter will be thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action will be effected.”
But the IG explained that the pension task force boss was still a fugitive on the run and that the police were ready to execute the warrant for his arrest. He called on the public to avail the Police with useful information that could lead to his arrest.
Abubakar denied that Maina had police guards.
The Senate had on Wednesday summoned Abubakar over his refusal to apprehend Maina.
But the IG, who spoke through the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, in Abuja on Thursday, said the police had yet to arrest Maina because he was in hiding.
He said, “If you are conversant with policing tradition, you will understand that the declaration of any person wanted is usually necessitated by a need. In this instance, he (Maina) was declared wanted because he went into hiding and made it difficult for the force to execute a warrant of arrest that was legitimately issued.
“And the Nigeria Police Force remains irrevocably committed to finding him and as soon as we lay our hands on him, we will arrest him and take him before the Senate as has been mandated in that warrant of arrest.”
On allegation that Maina was still having policemen guarding him, the IG said, “Maina has no police officer in his entourage to the best of my knowledge. And again media practitioners are responsible members of the society and even in that declaration and in the press release that we issued declaring Maina a wanted man, we did say that if any citizen that has information that could help us in executing that order, the person should please pass that information to the appropriate authority. So if you have information that could help us in executing this warrant of arrest, we will be glad to receive it from you.”
Meanwhile, civil rights groups on Thursday berated the Presidency in its handling of the controversy surrounding the PRTT boss.
The groups, including the Campaign for Democracy and the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Nigeria, accused the Presidency of shielding the embattled pension task force chairman.
The Executive Secretary of ACCN, Mr. Dino Melaye, said, “It is obvious that the Presidency is shielding Maina. This government is the promoter of corruption and corrupt persons. Obviously Maina did not steal alone; he has police, SSS following him everywhere.
“A sincere government would have sacked or suspend him since. This government is growing from being a weak government to becoming a wicked government. Let us see what the President will do on this.
“It is only thieves without presidential connections who fear the law in Nigeria,” the CD President, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said in her reaction to the Maina issue.