Maina saga: Before the dust settles

I guess that the recent conviction of the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, would have come as a welcome relief to some Nigerians that, at last, justice had prevailed. To me, however, it was more like an anti-climax. First, I expect that the incarceration should have been for a longer period going by the incalculable harm and deprivation his action, while in office, did to innocent pensioners. However, one is relieved that he was at last convicted and made to pay for his misdeeds because, going by the effect of his actions, a life sentence would have been considered more appropriate. All the same, the laws of the land relating to offences and punishments have to be respected. Secondly, and more importantly, there were many questions left unanswered in spite of his eventual conviction, I believe that answers will have to be provided for these questions before the dust finally settles on this matter. Such answers will provide relevant information to serve as a deterrent and guide in such future occurrence. Some of these questions are: how did Maina come back to this country as a “free man” after initially jumping bail?

How and why was Maina reinstated into the public service and even allegedly promoted with attendant benefits? How come that Maina was so comfortable on his return back to the country that he could even, allegedly, be aspiring to contest for the governorship of his state? Why was Maina treated as a “sacred cow” when he came back into the Country? In providing answers to these and other questions, it will be necessary to know those who were protecting Maina so much that he could think that it was going to be business as usual as if no aberration was committed in the first instance. In this regard, it is appropriate to commend various individual/bodies and the Press for not allowing the “Maina saga” to be swept under the carpet. Without their efforts, Maina could have been promoted by now to the zenith of the civil service or even elected a State Governor.

Apart from the foregoing, a worrisome poser is why was such monumental assignment given to a relatively junior officer who was also made to function as a Sole Administrator. In saner climes, such an assignment would, in the least, be given to an Inter-Ministerial/Departmental Committee comprising of more senior officers. Was this a case of misplaced trust, favoured assignment or a lackadaisical way of treating crucial issues? Whatever it is, this case is a serious indictment on the procedure in the Federal Civil Service. The most unfortunate thing about this saga is that the gross abuse of office with the attendant illegal acquisition of properties by Maina could be used as a yardstick of assessing civil servants generally. No wonder, it is not uncommon these days, to castigate civil servants for inefficiency, abuse of office and illegal acquisition of properties. However, it must be clearly stated that such a phenomenon does not apply to civil servants at the other levels, particularly in the state.

Generally, there are no “loose funds” at the state level to be handled with crass levity and insensitivity in the face of the states’ numerous responsibilities. Such a phenomenon can only happen where there are enormous resources without commensurate responsibilities. Is this another justification or need for “restructuring” in revenue allocation formula to ensure that much more funds are made available to tiers of government with more responsibilities? It is now very clear that if Nigerians will be much more vocal in speaking against aberrations in the conduct of Government business, justice, fair play and due process can still be enshrined. Finally, government should learn to assign responsibilities to public officers bearing in mind the importance/significance/expectations from such assignments. In essence, “rounds pegs should be placed in round holes.”

  • Osunro, a retired Permanent Secretary, writes in from Ibadan.
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