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Maina Has Refused to Defend Allegations of Embezzlement Against Him

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Aloysius Etok, chairman, Joint Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, States and Local Government Affairs, speaks to Anza Phillips, assistant editor, and Haruna Salami, senior staff writer, on his committee’s probe of the pension fraud and the allegation that he demanded for bribe. Excerpts:

Newswatch: Let us start with this allegation of the two billion Naira bribe. How did you get to know that Maina said you asked him for such amount?

Etok:  First, people just called me and said they have seen it in the newspaper review on the electronic media.  I then called and realised that a national newspaper wrote that I demanded two billion Naira from him.  I have never done so. But I remember that before then there was this kind of insinuation where another newspaper had said that the committee demanded two billion Naira and we were still having public hearing and we debunked it. But the truth is that we never demanded bribe and I have never in any way, not by proxy or by conversation on phone.  Maina is a person I have only met one-on-one once.  And when I met him that once I told him that if anybody tells you I needed money, tell the people I have not said so and if anybody tells you that I needed money or this committee needed money from you, tell the person he is a liar. I have never met Maina again. I don’t know where I would have talked about two billion Naira with him. That is why I said if Maina proves that I did, I’m prepared to face firing squad; I’m prepared to be tied to the stake and shot. That is how serious it is.


Newswatch: We asked this question because in an interview with Maina earlier, he said he has not told any person that you or your committee made such a demand and that nobody has confronted him with such allegation, that he is even surprised that the Senate committee had to react to that without asking him.

Etok: Well, because, one, when we now called to find out how the issue came about, when it was published in an earlier  report in a newspaper, he reacted saying that he never said so. But we now saw the one published in another daily. We asked the paper how they came about it, and the editor of the paper said the press secretary issued a release.


Newswatch: One other thing is the allegation that Maina refused to appear before your committee during the public hearing. He said he appeared, and that on that given day that he appeared, he was kept at the committee hearing between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Etok: For a major stakeholder like him, he is not controlling one pension office. May be today we invite him for one pension office like we started with the Police pension, we invited him for Police pension and we finished with that and after that, he did not come again until we had to raise a warrant of arrest before he appeared again. We had to invite him for the head of service pension again because if you are holding two, three offices and if we invite you one per office, what is wrong with that? The other day when we invited him for Customs, Immigration, Prison, Pension Office, CIPPO, he was here and after sometime he said he had a call that either the wife or the daughter was not feeling well and he left and ever since we have been inviting him. He will either write one kind of letter that he was with the House of Reps committee or he was abroad. If we are doing an investigation you must schedule your time well. When this other committee needs you, you come, when the other one needs you, you go. But we have discovered that he has blatantly refused to appear. Up till Tuesday, May 15, 2012, we invited him.  He has continued to refuse to appear before our committee during the public hearing to defend himself on the numerous petitions and evidence of embezzlement, misappropriation, misapplication and outright stealing of pension funds that are backed up with original documents and exhibits that prove Maina’s culpability.


Newswatch: What kind of findings have you made in the probe?

Etok: We have a lot of findings, which will come out in the report. We cannot reveal that because it will belittle the report.


Newswatch: On the Maina issue, he said when your committee members were going round on your fact finding mission, if it was not to witchhunt, you ought to have invited him or his Task Team to go round with you to attend to pensioners’ needs on the spot. How do you react to that?

Etok: We wrote a letter to the Head of Service of the Federation requesting for someone at the pension office to follow the committee. This was because, at that time, we didn’t know Maina, we didn’t know there was a team like PRTT. We wrote the letter to the head of service that he should send somebody to go around with us and the head of service said they sent the letter to his (Maina) office to go with us or nominate someone to go with us. He did not act until when we now shouted that the head of service had to send the director in charge of pension in his office and the first time the man came was to follow us to either Kano or Kaduna. When we asked the man questions, we realised the man didn’t know anything about the office. The man said he was not the one covering pension; that the Task Team has taken over the activities of the office and he was not able to answer our questions. That was when we even knew about the existence of theTask Team. After that, we didn’t hear anything about the Task Team which is led by Maina until we started the public hearing. He is a major stakeholder; he should have been here every day. But he never did even when we specifically invited him. Right now, he has refused to appear to present the state of affairs of CIPPO to us. We, therefore, decided to invite the leadership of the various services that make up CIPPO Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Since he has not come to brief us, we decided that the men of the services come and tell us what is happening with their various pensions because those collecting the pensions are their men and women.


Newswatch: When are you due to finish you work and submit the final report?

Etok: By the grace of God, all things being equal, we are likely to lay the report next week.


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