By Doosuur Iwambe – Abuja
Senior lawyers in the country have descended hard on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over his legal opinion in the re-engagement of a former chairman of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) Abdurasheed Maina.
Accusing Malami of acting at logger-head with the position of the law and the fight against corruption, the senior lawyers who spoke exclusively to the Sketch Online during a Telephone Interview added that the position of the AGF on Maina’s case is contrary to the collective interest of Nigerians.
Malami, Winifred Oyo-Ita, head of the federal civil service, and Abdulrahman Dambazau, minister of interior, were involved in Maina’s posting to the interior ministry, according to documents made public.
Maina, ex-chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), was accused of being involved in pension fraud running into over N100 billion.
After being declared wanted by the police, Maina went into hiding and reportedly fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was dismissed from the federal civil service in 2013 for absconding from duty.
However, a Senior Lawyer, Malam Yusuf Ali, SAN, who reacted to the development said that there are extant federal civil service rules that make provisions for a civil servant who is on trial for a criminal offence.
According to Ali, “If a serving civil servant is facing criminal prosecution for offences that border on fraud, corruption, capital offences etc he must be interdicted that is he must be suspended from his work and placed on half salary.
“If truly there is an extant criminal charge against Maina before the federal High Court , until the matter is decided in his favour, he can not be recalled to resume his work. The question to ask is whether or not the AGF was aware of the existence of that case if truly it exists.
“I will like to give the AGF the benefit of doubt that may be he was not aware of the case before he wrote his opinion that the man be recalled.
“However if he was aware that Maina has a pending criminal case before the Federal High court bordering on corruption or such related offences, and he still was able to write for his recall, then he owes all Nigerians explanation why he advised as he did,” he added.
On his part, another Senior Lawyer and a Human Rights Activists, Festus Keyamo who also aligned himself with the submissions of Yusuf Ali noted that the duty of the AGF is to ensure that the agencies saddled with investigation do their work diligently.
He said that the warrant of arrest issued by the senate against Maina had nothing to do with charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions before the Federal high court.
“What the AGF would have done was to appeal the matter. The AGF should encourage criminal matters to go to a logical conclusion and not to serve as a hindrance.
“As the chief law office, it lies on him to ensure justice for all since justice is a 3way traffic. If the legal opinion is actually from the AGF office, then he has missed his point because that opinion is a disservice to a government that is fighting corruption.”
It could be recalled that the EFCC had filed a 35-counts charge against Maina, former Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mr. Steve Oronsaye, and four others before an Abuja High Court over their alleged involvement in the N1.2billion fraud and money laundering offences.
Oronsaye and the other accused persons had all pleaded not guilty to the 24-count charge preferred against them when they appeared before Justice Kolawole in July 2015 except for Maina who was alleged to be at large.
On the count charges preferred against the accused persons, they were said to have allegedly collaborated in defrauding the federal government to the tune of N118,992,201.6 under the guise of paying the money in tranches for the contract of biometric data capture project between March 2010 and December 2011.
The fraud was allegedly perpetrated through the award and payment for fake contracts to nine companies including, Innovative Solutions, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services, Xangee Technologies Limited, Fatideck Ventures, Obalando Nigeria Enterprises, Moshfad Enterprises and Fesbee Global Resources Limited.
The fraud offences were said to be punishable under 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
Also, the EFCC had declared Maina wanted over allegations of fraud, and diverting pension fund for his personal use.
The commissions spokesperson Mr. Wilson Uwujaren had told journalists that Maina was wanted for his role in the fraudulent biometric contracts through which he and former Head of Service, Oronsaye and two other allegedly stole over N2billion of pension funds.