There are strong indications that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has abandoned the hunt for the Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, indicted for N2.1bn pension biometric scam.
The PUNCH learnt that the EFCC lost interest in the case following the official protection enjoyed by the ex-director who was also promoted after his controversial reinstatement into the civil service by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in 2017.
Sources said the anti-graft body had abandoned the search for Maina, noting that “he is more or less a free man now.”
A source said, “Is anyone talking about Maina again? He is no longer a fugitive and the EFCC has abandoned the hunt for him. If you are in doubt, ask Ibrahim Magu (acting EFCC Chairman) for update on his case and hear what he would tell you.”
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said there was no update on the manhunt for the former director.
Maina was reportedly nursing a governorship ambition to rule his home state of Borno when he fled the country after he was declared wanted by the anti-graft agency in 2013.
He fled to the United Arab Emirates where he hibernated for three years until he was said to have met with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in Dubai, in 2016, during which he was reportedly assured of his safety in Nigeria.
Shortly after this, Maina’s name was reportedly taken off the watch list at the nation’s international airports and he had been visiting the country more regularly from his foreign base.
It was gathered that the former PRTT chairman was being protected from arrest and prosecution by top officials in the Presidency and the Ministry of Justice.
Our correspondent also learnt that the former director, who was also placed on the International Police wanted list, was always in the country hobnobbing with senior officials.
A source claimed that Maina was “a friend of the government, no enforcement agency would dare take him into custody.”
Malami had, in November 2017, admitted before a Senate ad hoc panel probing Maina’s reinstatement into the civil service that he met with the former PRTT boss in Dubai.
Sequel to this, Maina resumed at the Ministry of Interior where he was promoted as Director, Human Resources Department, without sitting for the mandatory promotion examination.
Against the backdrop of the revelations, the President ordered the sacking of the director and the Senate also set up an ad-hoc committee to determine the circumstances that led to the return of Maina to the country and his reinstatement into the service despite being on the security watch list.
But the report of the committee headed by the then Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishments and Public Services, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa Central), was not released till the tenure of the eight Senate lapsed.
Maina in January 2019, secured a court order stopping the EFCC from declaring him wanted.
Justice Giwa Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court described the action of the anti-graft agency in declaring Maina wanted as unlawful, but the commission vowed to appeal against the order.
When asked if the commission had appealed the court order obtained by Maina against his arrest, the EFCC spokesman pleaded for time to find out from the commission’s director of legal department.
He later said he could not reach the director as calls to his phone rang out.
Checks, however, showed that Maina is still listed as a wanted person on the EFCC website.