Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, has been fighting hard to defend himself over his alleged involvement in the suspected multi-billion Naira pension fraud. He claimed to have gone into hiding to save his life from some vested interests that have vowed to silence him for asking the administration of ex-President Jonathan to stop the multi-billion naira monthly allocations allegedly being shared by those entrusted with the money under the guise of paying pensioners. However, in all his efforts to defend himself, the embattled former pension boss has failed to explain the source of his stupendous wealth. He is strenuously trying to change the narrative. Apparently, Maina wants to dictate the terms of his trial. He wants government to focus on the fact that there was no direct budgetary provision for his committee. But the Federal Government appears to be interested in how monies that should otherwise have accrued to it allegedly disappeared into Maina’s private pocket as he was equally said to be neck-deep in the humongous pension fraud.
Perhaps, this is why Maina is reluctant to talk about the source of his stupendous wealth and how his committee was funded. However, as a public platform, TheEconomy hereby serves you Maina’s own defence in his own words in an interview he granted an Abuja-based Radio Show:
The former Pensions Task Force boss claimed he had never stolen a dime:
To start with, I did not take anybody’s one kobo and nobody has ever given me one kobo in Nigeria. Nobody has ever given me budget; nobody has ever given our office N10. The Office of the Head of Service (HoS) has always been in charge of our task force. Our task force include: 15 officers from the EFCC; 15 officers from the ICPC; four officers from DSS; two officers from NIA; 15 officers from the office of HoS; three officers from the Accountant General’s Office; three officers from the Auditor General’s office; two officers from the office of the Attorney-General and Public Complaint Commission and some representatives of the National Association of the Nigerian Pensioners. I was only the head. Anything that happened in that task force must be endorsed by all these agencies before it is brought to me to endorse. So, why is it that people are calling Maina, Maina and not calling the task force? The reason is that I refused to bend backwards.
Maina challenged anyone from either the Budget Office or the Ministry of Finance that has ever given him money to show the proof to Nigerians:
This money, I have never seen in cash; I only see on paper. So, how did I come across the money? If there is anybody with proof of how government gave me money or how money entered into my account, let the person show the proof. People are talking on the newspapers. All this is because of the following: My team was asked to go and restructure the Police Pension Office. We went to the Police Pension Office and we found out that they were taking N300 million every morning. I reported to the Minister of Finance and asked her if she approved N24 billion for payment of police pension arrears and she said ‘yes.’ I told her that the money was not being used to pay police pension arrears and that N300 million was removed every morning and these are the people that were removing the money. The matter was referred to the EFCC and ICPC.”
The second thing was that they were allocating N1.5 billion every month for Police Pension. We found out that the actual amount was N488 million. That means that they have been stealing N1 billion every month for so long. Definitely, I will have enemies. We had to ask the Minister of Finance to stop these payments.
Maina claimed that he blocked leakages in pension funds through e-payment and saved billions of Naira for government:
The task force never had or operated any account. The people who stole money who are being prosecuted are the ones that paid money to the media to rubbish my name. They are rubbishing my name because they are afraid that if Maina is around, Maina is going to reveal a lot of things. We blocked leakages in government and saved billions of naira for the government. We created e-payment and gave pensioners smart cards. That way, a pensioner will go and verify himself at his own time instead of lining up every month and dying in the process. We found out that the payroll of the Head of Service was N5.12 billion but the actual was N825 million. So, why should Maina go and tell the Minister of Finance to stop sending N5.12 billion? That was my crime because this money was being shared all over.
Maina insisted that his life is under threat and recalls that his car was once riddled with bullets when he was returning from a meeting with former President Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala where the money recovered by his team was discussed:
I had complained to the President (Goodluck Jonathan) and they gave me a bullet–proof car. The car is still in the Villa. When I complained to the police, the reply by the police was signed by the present Inspector General of Police. I had to go under because of the threats to my life. So, I went to court.
When asked if he would come out of hiding and spill the beans if President Muhammadu Buhari provides the necessary security for him, Maina said:
“I am ready and half of those people will run away and leave Nigeria. I tell you this and that is why I am being persecuted. The former President is alive; the former Minister of Finance is alive. Let them go and find out about the money Maina recovered. How can they say there is no money to pay pensioners? It was during my time that we went and got approval for 53 per cent increase in pension. With the money we recovered, they were able to pay the 53 per cent increase. We recovered N282 billion. How many pensioners do we have in Nigeria? Secondly, because of the information I gave to the security agencies, they recovered N1.6 trillion from the security agencies.”
On why he shunned invitation by the Senate, Maina claimed that he had earlier honoured the lawmakers’ invitation but was shocked by the treatment given to the pension thieves by the Senators:
The pension thieves were being given tea in the Senate Chambers while I and Lawode were inside the dock. So, the thieves were with the Senators.