An Abuja Federal High Court Monday sentenced a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina to 61 years imprisonment.
Justice Okon Abang sentenced Maina after he was found guilty of money laundering and stealing pension funds to the tune of N2 billion. The sentence will run concurrently to make him spend only eight years in jail.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had arraigned Maina alongside his son, Faisal, on charges of operating fictitious bank accounts, corruption, and money laundering, to the tune of N2bn.
EFCC also joined Maina’s company, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, in the charges and was found guilty as well.
Justice Abang found the former pension boss guilty of inducing staff of Fidelity Bank to open bank accounts for him without conducting the requisite due diligence.
He was convicted of concealing his true identity as a signatory to accounts opened in UBA and Fidelity bank by using the identity of his family members without their knowledge.
These accounts had cash deposits of N300million, N500million and 1.5billion.
The court held that Maina stole monies meant for Pensioners as he could not prove where he got same from.
Justice Abang also held that through Maina’s service as a civil servant, his salary and emoluments will not amount to the monies in these accounts.
Maina, who was the Director of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior, had a run-in with the law in his capacity as Chair of the Pension Reform Task Team, now defunct. Despite the claims, the former pension boss had denied any wrongdoing.
Maina was recruited by former President, Goodluck Jonathan to clean up the corrupt pension system in Nigeria.
But, his trouble started in 2012 when he was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme of over a N100 billion.
Following allegations of corruption, the convicted former Pension boss was then invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration. The Senate after completion of its investigation issued a Warrant of Arrest against Maina.
Ignoring the panel, Maina went ahead to sue the Senate and the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and, thereafter, went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police.
Against this backdrop, Maina was dismissed by the Office of the Head of Service for allegedly absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest and charged to court.
He was on July 21, 2015, charged by the EFCC alongside Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretense.
While Mr. Oronsaye and the two other accused were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charge, Maina was no where to be found.
He is said to have spent these past years in the United Arab Emirates, from where he kept lobbying to win the pleasures of the Buhari administration.
Since absconding, nothing was heard of Maina until shortly after the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 when members of his defunct Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms offered to work with the then-incoming administration.
Maina, who was in 2013 dismissed by the Federal Civil Service Commission following a recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service, was reinstated as director in charge of Human Resources in the Ministry of Interior.
Then Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, in a statement by his press secretary, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, confirmed the recall.
Danbazau had blamed Maina’s recall on the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission.
But, in October 2017, Buhari had ordered the immediate dismissal of Maina due to the fraud allegations against him.
Despite evading arrest, Maina and his son Faisal were finally arrested and prosecuted for fraud.
Speaking on the ruling of Justice Abang, an Abuja-based Barrister, Osazie Odion, said the conviction of the ex-Pension boss was a welcome development.
Speaking with Odion said Maina’s sentencing would send a clear signal to other public office holders that they are not untouchable, especially when they are involved in fraud.
“I saw the ruling by the Abuja Federal High Court and I think it’s a welcome development to the fight against corruption.
“This would send a clear signal to the likes of Maina perpetuating fraud while in public office, and thinking they can get away with it.
“He is claiming to be innocent, so why did he flee Nigeria? He should have stayed and proved his innocence. The court has ruled and if he is not satisfied, he can appeal it. But the sentencing shows that nobody is above the law, especially when they are committing frauds.”