Nigeria’s attorney-general Abubakar Malami was infamously described last year by Junaid Mohammed, a Second Republic legislator, as a “joker” and “charge and bail lawyer in Kano”. The justice minister has now played the joker in his pack by bailing out a fugitive on corruption charges.
The scandal currently engulfing the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, in which a former head of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was on run from the law since 2013 for allegedly embezzling 100bn naira ($278m), could be the final nail in the coffin of President Buhari’s anti-corruption pretensions.
Fugitive Maina fled the country when summoned by the Senate to answer charges of corruption. The country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was still insisting this week that Maina was a wanted man. But it has since emerged that justice minister Malami had intervened in the case and cancelled the arrest warrant against Maina issued by the police. There is speculation that this followed a meeting in Dubai between the fugitive and interior minister and former army chief Abdulrahman Dambazau. The retired general was also allegedly involved in the diversion of about $1bn meant for arms deals and was sacked in 2010. This didn’t stop Buhari appointing him interior minister about two years ago.
Dambazau and Malami are allegedly part of a “cabal” that are virtually running Nigeria, as Buhari has abdicated his constitutional responsibilities to govern. The “cabal” is headed by Buhari’s nephew Mamman Daura, whose foster son Abba Kyari, is the president’s chief of staff. Kyari is the de facto prime minister of Nigeria. While Buhari was on an extended sick leave in London, the Reuters news agency, quoting presidency sources, claimed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, nominally in charge in Buhari’s absence, was taking orders from Kyari.
This unelected clique has taken over the presidency, they decide on the president’s every move, who sees the president and so on, much to the chagrin of Aisha, the president’s wife, and other All Progressives Congress (APC) heavy-hitters such as former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi, the former Rivers State governor and current transportation minister. Due process doesn’t seem to matter to them, as oil minister Ibe Kachikwu revealed in a memo about the award of multibillion dollar contracts at the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
So Malami’s move to initiate the reinstatement of a fugitive into the civil service should have come as no surprise to cabal watchers. Maina was reportedly promoted to director on his return in September and had his salary arrears paid in full back to the date he went on the run. All this would have been business as usual if a whistleblower hadn’t leaked the reinstatement to the Premium Times online newspaper. There is some suspicion that disgruntled elements within the ruling party may be behind the endless leaks crippling this administration.
This particular leak resulted in a backside-covering exercise by the presidency. First, they denied all knowledge and claimed that the president has asked for all the facts to be provided to him. Then it was claimed that Maina’s reinstatement has been rescinded by the president. This was after one media outlet reported that the president signed the authorisation to bring the fugitive back into service. Maina is said to be a regular at Friday prayers with the president at the presidential mosque.
The president is trying to lock the stable doors after the horse has bolted. Nigerians call this “medicine after death”. Thanks to the bailing out of a fugitive by Malami the “charge and bail” lawyer, Buhari’s fictitious fight against corruption is in its death throes. The president’s request for all the facts about Maina’s reinstatement is part of the confidence trick he has been playing on Nigerians since he campaigned on a platform of “change” and anti-corruption. Any so-called report on this sordid saga would reveal that an allegedly corrupt fugitive was brought back by the president’s men – as most people should now know.
However, Nigerians should also know by now that nothing would come of that report, as decisions on what happens next would be made by Abba Kyari. In his days as a “charge and bail” lawyer in Kano, Malami would have wished for a similar situation in which the suspects he was representing were given the opportunity to be judge and jury in their own cases.