by Kemi Busari,
Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday pushed back against “absurd” attempts by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to link him to the unfolding scandal of how a fugitive returned to the country and took a senior position in public service.
Mr. Jonathan said the fact that efforts are being made to link him to the return and reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina underscored how “uncoordinated and rudderless” the Buhari administration has become.
“Are they saying it is President Jonathan that flew him back into Nigeria and promoted him in two levels ahead of where he was as at 2013 when he fled the from civil service?” Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night.
“They should stop insulting Nigerians or seeing them as fools,” Mr. Eze said.
Mr. Buhari has come under intense public backlash since last week Friday when PREMIUM TIMES uncovered Mr. Maina’s surreptitious return to civil service.
Mr. Maina was declared wanted by the EFCC on allegations of courting billions in public funds for his own use when he headed the pension reform task force.
The pension funds scandal broke out during Mr. Jonathan’s administration (2010-2015), and the government took disciplinary steps against Mr. Maina by dismissing him from service.
Mr. Maina was an assistant director at the time of his dismissal.
The presidency, in a statement by Garba Shehu Wednesday night, said top officials of the Jonathan administration benefitted from the funds Mr. Maina allegedly stole from pension funds.
“Top officials in the PDP government, from sectoral heads, to those charged with responsibility for law and order received some of these billions of naira from Maina,” the presidential spokesperson said. “We have all the transaction records and these are matters that the EFCC has been pursuing to ensure that they all have their day in court.”
Mr. Shehu also suggested that some influential officials loyal to the previous government may have been the invisible hand in the latest scandal that saw the return of Mr. Maina to the public service, despite being on the EFCC’s wanted list.
He, however, assured Nigerians that President Buhari was determined to get to the bottom of the matter of the impunity that led to Maina’s reinstatement.
“Everything will be uncovered in due course,” he said. “This just goes to show us the scale of corruption that this government is fighting. And, as we can all see, corruption keeps fighting back viciously.”
Firing back within minutes later when PREMIUM TIMES reached him for comments, Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson said the Buhari administration officials should waste little time in bringing out any evidence of connivance between Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Maina if they have it.
“There’s no need to warn that they will bring evidence out or that everything will be revealed on a later date,” Mr. Eze said. “They should present the evidence to Nigerians now.”
Mr. Eze said Mr. Maina’s family had already disclosed how the embattled former civil servant returned to the country and secured a new position in civil service even while he was being sought by the EFCC.
“The Maina family spoke about how he returned to the country and they made it very clear that Buhari officials were the ones that orchestrated his return,” Mr. Eze said.
Emerging details since Monday have pointed to the involvement of Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, the Federal Civil Service and the Ministry of Interior as playing critical roles in the reinstatement of Mr. Maina into the civil service.
PREMIUM TIMES also confirmed that Mr. Maina was accorded top-level security detail by the State Security Service since he returned to the country months ago.