Why the cold war over Maina too hot for Buhari

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Bringing fugitive Maina to justice is an old war between two forces in Buhari’s government. It’s just accidentally spilled to the open

Pension Reform Task Force former chairman Abdulrasheed Maina is no mean man.

He knows his way around Aso Rock—whoever is the occupant: former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP or the incumbent anti-corruption Tsar Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.

Former Senate President David Mark can testify to that. It took him and his then Senate a tough action—a threat letter backed by a 48-hour ultimatum to  Jonathan—to remove Maina from office after the pension scam broke out in 2013.

“He was all over the place, boasting about his connection to the Presidential Villa and kept on bluffing the Senate,” said Mark in Against The Run of Play, a book written by journalist Segun Adeniyi.

No fewer than 7000 petitions had rolled into the Senate by this time—all against Mania. Amd the former president was not even goong to pat him on the wrist.

“To compound the issue, he was indeed seen driving in and out of Aso Rock in a convoy of vehicles with police escort. It was at a point when I couldn’t take the nonsense any longer that that I decided on the letter to the President.”

Even when Jonathan eventually fired Maina, nothing seriously happened following Maia’s N100-billion scam unearthed. He walked free till 2015 before the EFCC put a bounty on his head.

While Buhari began his muck-raking that year, the fugitive, holed up somewhere in the UAE, felt no alarm. His tentacles were already rooted in the deep recesses of Buhari’s Aso Rock.

And nothing changed since then. Until two weeks ago. Rather, things were looking brighter for him. The police took off his name from INTERPOL’s list of wanted suspects.  The arrest warrant the EFCC obtained was also voided last year. Maina, all along, remained on the pay-roll of the interior ministry—from where he was drafted to head the presidential task force on pension reforms in 2012. Millions of naira was recently paid to him. According to the PDP, the payment of bogus salary arrears amounted to N22m.

“He has reportedly collected this upon approval, and released by the accountant-general of the federation,” Dayo Adeyeye, PDP’s national publicity secretary, said in a press release last week.

ALSO SEE: Report fingers Malami in Maina’s conspiracy

For sure, the interior ministry has always banged in funds into Maina’s account. Investigators recently exposed how N152 million was paid into his account between 2011 and 2012. So he has enough nest eggs to still keep up his charmed life even on the run.

His political ambition was intact, too.

Of course, nothing prevented him from dreaming–with so much cash flowing in. While still roving around the world, looking over his shoulders, the Borno-born bureaucrat was scheming to rule his state. And why not? He has enough backwind to push him forward.

A group called the Borno Stakeholders Forum is among the foot soldiers rooting for a Gov. Maina. His posters are now all over Abuja, Kaduna, and Borno screaming “Hope 2019”, with a pay-off “Borno Shall be great Again” and “With Abdulrasheed Maina, Our Future is Guaranteed

These are all well-orchestrated moves. going by the revelation from his family who claimed he was called back by the present administration to come and work for change.

And those that brought him back, and jacked him up the food chain in the ministry, are as rock-solid within the villa as the Aso rock itself.

The preliminary report Buhari got after his order to probe Maina’s reinstatement. whose news was no small scandal, fingered two of the president’s ministers: Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and Interior Minister Abdulrahamn Danbazzau.

But followers of the Aso Rock power game know who the real McCoy is: Chief of Staff Abba Kyari.

And it’s so perfect here the relationships are air-tight. Kyari and Maina are townsmen. Beyond that, some media reports claim Maina and Danbazzau are also buddies.

On the whole, considering the power centers  within the villa, Kyari, no doubt,  is a force to reckon with. And in his camp are Malami and Danbazzau, and the DSS boss Lawan Daura.

So it is easy to understand why Maina, the most wanted scam suspect, is being featherbedded by the DSS, the police, under ex-IGP M.D. Yusuff Abubakar and his successor Ibrahim Idris.

And it is also clearer now why the rival power player in the Buhari government—the NSA Monguno group, comprising largely the EFCC led by Ibrahim Magu,—is rearing to grab the fugitive at the slightest opportunity. The Nigeria Customs Service CG Hameed Ali, an ally of the president, is known for his disdain for the Kyari cabal, too.

Analysts believe the latest manhunt by the EFCC, and the cover the interior ministry is offering Maina, is nothing more than fanning of embers of the hostilities between Kyari and Monguno.

Their friction dates back to 2015, early on in Buhari’s government, when the secret police under Daura became a financial-crime busting agency, going ahead of the EFCC to arrest corruption suspects in the last administration.

No fewer than 30 of such suspects were raided by the DSS in the wake of Buhari’s anti-graft war. In the smash-and-grab operations, just N47m and $1.943m were recovered. That was besides the 2016 sting ops the service carried out on allegedly corrupt judges across Nigeria.

Some of the suspects, however, found a go-to guy in Buhari’s CoS.  Kyari eventually became a fixer for the likes of Jide Omokore, an oil tycoon and associate of ex-Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, and promoters of Sahara Energy.

This DSS hyper-activity pitted Daura against Magu, and the cold war that followed nearly froze Magu out of the EFCC. The DSS petitioned the Senate twice not to confirm Magu as the commission substantive chairman because of their findings bordering on corruption.

Earlier, Kyari himself had attempted to bin Buhari’s letter (to the Senate) on Magu’s confirmation. It was Ag, President Yemi Osinbajo that forwarded the request to the Senate on those two occasions.

ALSO SEE: Maina campaign posters all over Abuja, others

Buhari wasn’t unaware of Kyari’s power—and even the friction between the DSS and the EFCC. He just simply believed the rivalry was the beauty of democracy.

Many Nigerians, however, saw that as a character flaw, some kind of permissiveness telling badly on the administration’s campaign against corruption.

Since the head of service submitted her report on Maina’s comeback to Buhari’s governement, indicting Danbazzau and Malami, no action has followed from the presidency.

Buhari’s critics have taken this silence for the end of the story–that Maina will get some soft landing since Kyari and his men have been pulling wires in Aso Rock—that the EFCC will be stopped cold turkey in the trail of the fugitive—and the loot traced to him (N2 billion and still counting) might be explained away. Just the way the arrest warrant was.  According to Malami, a court order voided the arrest warrant last year (as though the arrest warrant was the allegation), and he told the head of service to effect it, by reinstating Maina.

After all, the court had given no judgement against him when he took off in 2015, according to the AGF.

Danbazzau, too, has called his friend to turn himself in, and stop bumming around.

That is more than mere good advice.

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