Eniola Akinkuotu, Okechukwu Nnodim and Olaleye Aluko
Four days after the order of President Muhammadu Buhari for the “immediate disengagement” of embattled ex-Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, from the Federal Civil Service, the process leading to his disengagement is yet to commence.
Sunday PUNCH gathered in Abuja that as of the close of work on Friday, the Federal Civil Service Commission had yet to commence the process.
Findings revealed that the process for disengaging a civil servant from the system, as laid down in the rules and regulations of the service, would require strict adherence to civil service rules and procedures in order to avoid its nullification through the judicial process.
A serving director in one of the Federal Government ministries, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, explained that irrespective of the gravity of the offence, an accused person was entitled to an opportunity to defend himself or herself before further action could be taken.
He, however, added that in the event the person failed to honour the summons when opportunities were provided, a decision to discipline in accordance with the rules would apply.
The director stated, “It will require first that a query be issued to the person concerned; he can then be warned as the case may be and then a board/committee will be set up to investigate the matter.
“And in the course of its investigations, the board has powers, according to our rules, to summon the accused person to defend himself. It is after this procedure is carefully followed that further action can be taken.”
Commenting on the Presidential order, he said, “Yes, the President has spoken. My understanding of what he said is that the civil service commission, which has the statutory duty of hiring and firing, should commence the procedure of ensuring that this happens.
“Mr. President that I know is a man that follows procedure; that is why some of his actions are being misinterpreted to mean he is slow.”
When contacted on whether or not the process had commenced, the Director of Press and Public Relations of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Dr. Joel Oruche, said he was not in a position to speak on the matter because he had no information on it.
“I don’t have any information on that (whether Maina has been disengaged from service). I don’t have any information to give you. No comment,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH.
A Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, told SUNDAY PUNCH the President had no power to sack a civil servant, stating that the President could “set the ball rolling” by asking the FCSC to begin the process of sacking Maina.
He explained that the commission would be expected to set up a disciplinary committee, which would then query Maina and based on his response, recommend a dismissal.
Ogunye, however, said the FCSC could sack Maina without following the usual procedure if it could be established that his reinstatement was illegal ab initio and therefore null and void.
He said, “Rule 04412, which deals with summary dismissal in case of gross misconduct; allows the FCSC, having followed the disciplinary procedure, allows them to dismiss him.
“In Maina’s case, when in 2013 he absconded from work, he was issued a query which was dated February 15, 2013 and thereafter, when he didn’t respond or show up, he was eventually dismissed in a letter dated March 5, 2013.
“So, he was dismissed properly and having been dismissed properly and then purportedly reinstated with all the institutions that acted now having to answer to the President, who has a right to query them.
“I think in the process of looking into the matter, if it is found that the purported reinstatement did not follow the right procedure and was improper, the status quo would just prevail.
“In other words, you don’t need to sack him but just nullify his purported reinstatement such that his earlier sacking in 2013 would hold.”
Airport security operatives not instructed to arrest Maina
Meanwhile, security operatives of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria have not received instruction to look out for Maina in order to prevent his escape from the country.
It was gathered on Saturday that no formal communication had reached Aviation Security officials to arrest the embattled former pension reforms chairman if sighted at the airports.
This, however, was despite an announcement from the Presidency on Thursday that an Abuja Magistrate’s Court as well as the Interpol had issued fresh warrants for Maina’s arrest.
Also, the Nigeria Immigration Service, on Friday, said it had directed its operatives at border formations and other command posts to look out for Maina, who had yet to be sighted anywhere since Buhari ordered that he be fired.
It said all NIS personnel across the country had also been issued strict directives to arrest Maina on sight.
But when asked if AVSEC officials were on the lookout for Maina at the airports following his disappearance, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said aviation security had yet to receive such instruction.
According to Yakubu, the AVSEC unit of the airports authority disclosed this to her after she presented the media enquiry to the aviation security department of FAAN.
In a text message responding to SUNDAY PUNCH’s enquiry, Yakubu simply said, “Spoke with the AVSEC. They said no such instruction.”
However, it was learnt that workers at the airports, particularly those at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, were aware of the fact that Maina was on the wanted list of law enforcement agencies.
They stated that although they had yet to receive any formal instruction to apprehend the former pension reforms chairman, they would not hesitate to inform law enforcement agencies if Maina was sighted at the airport.
“Truly, there has not been any formal communication mandating us to look out for him (Maina) or to arrest him, but that does not mean we will fold our arms and watch him escape through this (Abuja) airport if we sight him,” a senior official at the operations department of FAAN, who spoke to one of our correspondents in confidence, said. (Punch)