Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami SAN claimed on Thursday that about 222 assets were recovered by the Presidential Task Force Team on Pension Reform. The team was headed by fugitive civil servant Abdulrasheed Maina. They were shared among some highly-placed Nigerians with links to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he alleged. However, the EFCC insists the assets are intact.
Malami alleged that his signature on the document that ordered Maina’s reinstatement into the civil service might have been forged because he did not sign such a memo. These are among the issues contained in a 13-page memorandum dated November 14 Malami sent to the Senator Emmanuel Paulker-led Senate committee probing Maina’s controversial reinstatement before President Muhammadu Buhari ordered him to be fired.
In what is a new twist to the Maina saga, Malami said houses and exotic vehicles that the task force recovered were also shared to some officials of the EFCC. He mentioned a property at 42, Gana Street, Maitama Abuja, which he claimed is worth N1 billion. He said it was allocated to a Lagos lawyer to buy.
The No. 42 Gana Street, Maitama property was said to have been recovered from Dr. Shaibu Teidi, a former Director of Pensions Accounts, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
Malami, who said in the document that Nigerians were “blindfolded” from getting answers to two pertinent questions:
”a. What happened to the monies recovered from the syndicate? What about the 222 properties comprising real estate and motor vehicles, one of which is a mansion worth N1 billion situated at No 42 Gang Street Maitama, Abuja, allegedly given to a senior lawyer meant to crave for his ”buy in” in maximizing media hype aimed at distracting the attention at the public pension fraud?
Malami praised the Senate for the opportunity to engage with Nigerians on the matter by “rising above the conspiracy of the pension predators that set in aggressive press negative campaign against me and allowing me an opportunity to address Nigerians, thereby upholding the national interest as against the interest of the chain of pension predators.”
Sources close to the committee indicated that Malami, who had appeared three times to expatiate on the memo, insisted that he did not sign the memo that ordered Maina’s return.
The AGF was said to have claimed that desperate people bent on smearing his image might have been behind the alleged forgery.
In another document also submitted to the committee, a group of concerned pensioners claimed that 270 properties recovered by the Taskforce Team were in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Part of the document reads: “These properties are under the custody of the EFCC. The properties, as we speak, have been shared among top officials of the commission, friends and family members, including lawyers of the agency.”
The group, which went ahead to list over 63 estates and properties with names of the original owners, prayed the Senate to dig deep to unravel how the recovered properties and assets were shared and who got what.
The Senate mandated its ad-hoc committee i to probe alleged sharing of 222 mansions. It also extended the sitting time for the Paulker Committee, following a request.
The mandate followed the alarm raised by Paulker over alleged “re-looting of choice properties recovered by Maina by EFCC officials”.
Paulker, who raised a Point of Order, told the Senate that about 222 recovered properties, including houses and hotels handed over to the EFCC by Maina before his removal, had been shared by top EFCC operatives and other persons of influence in the EFCC.
The panel chairman said the committee got wind of the fraudulent sharing of the recovered properties from submissions made to that effect by some of the invited government officials connected with Maina’s reinstatement and promotion.
Paulker urged the Senate to expand the scope of his committee’s investigation to include tracing those involved in sharing the recovered properties and assets.
He said: “For this alarming revelation sir, this committee requests the Senate to expand the scope of its investigation on Maina by extending it to the management of assets recovered by him and handed over to EFCC before his removal as Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pensions in 2014 and, by so doing, extend the duration of the assignment .”
Senate President Bukola Saraki put the request to a voice vote and it was unanimously okayed.
Saraki said: “This is a very serious matter and more of large scale corruption going on in a forbidden place. We just hope that it remains at the realm of allegation and not as it is presented.”