Fugitive former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force Alhaji Abdulrashid Maina, who is accused of embezzling billions of naira in pension funds, once swindled the family of the late Head of State General Sani Abacha of tens of millions of naira, an informed retired security officer told Daily Trust on Sunday in Kano yesterday. The source said Maina, who had then just returned to Nigeria after a failed school sojourn in the United States, convinced the head of state’s sons to award him a contract to furnish Arewa Suites, which they had just acquired. He convinced the Abachas that he knew a lot about furnishing and interior decoration during his stay in America.
According to the source, the Abachas gave Maina tens of millions of naira to furnish the hotel and he left Nigeria for the US where he converted the money to his personal use. He never furnished the hotel despite collecting down payment, the source said. When Maina sneaked into Nigeria nearly a year later, then Chief Security Officer to Abacha Major Hamza Al-Mustapha had him arrested at the airport. Maina was kept in a military detention facility for many months, the security source said.
Daily Trust on Sunday also learnt from informed sources that Abdulrashid Maina’s father, the late Alhaji Aliyu Biu was a member of the Biu royal family. He spent many years in Sokoto as the Chief Passport Officer at the Nigeria Immigration Service office before he transferred to the foreign service in the early 1990s. He subsequently became Nigeria’s ambassador to Mauritania and later to Chad. In between the two postings, he was also a protocol officer at the State House in Abuja. The late former envoy died in a car accident in 1998, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt. The sources also said Abdulrashid’s surname, Maina, is another name for Alhaji Aliyu Biu. The former pension boss is believed to have relocated his mother to one of his Kaduna houses which were sealed last week by the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Unknown life of Abdurrasheed Maina
On September 24, 2017, four Prado jeeps and a Camry cruised into the town of Potiskum in Yobe accompanied by eight armed police escorts.
The leader of the convoy was Abdurrashid Maina, one of the most talked about figure in Nigeria today, who at that point was declared a wanted man for reported N24 billion pension fund fraud.
Despite being a wanted man, the former boss of the Pension Reform Task Team drove into Potiskium in comfort and under full police protection to pay a condolence visit to the family of the late Dallatun Fika, Alhaji Idrissa Madaki, who had passed on September 18th.
Dr Maina has not been living like a wanted man and findings by Daily Trust on Sunday shows that the man has been enjoying the protection of law enforcement officers who were supposed to effect his arrest.
Beyond nursing plans to contest the governorship elections in Borno in 2019, three months ago, Maina was in line to be turbaned as an heir apparent to the Emir of Biu throne and there was supposed to be a huge ceremony to celebrate it but for strong opposition between other princes who feared Maina would beat them to the throne.
Our correspondent, who visited Biu, Maina’s hometown reported that there are clear orders to residents of the town not to engage with journalists as everyone he approached for an interview was reluctant to do so on account of this order. He was even treated with belligerence in some instances.
However, our correspondent was able to gather that the letter appointing Maina heir apparent to the Biu throne was sent to Abuja and Maina thereafter visited Biu to prepare grounds for his turbaning.
In Biu, evidence of Maina’s ambition are everywhere for all to see. Posters announcing his intention to run for governor with the tag: ‘The Clarion Call, Hope 2019, MAINA Abdurrasheed, (Yariman Biu) Governor, Borno State, are pasted all over the town, including a one-storey building said to belong to him at Dugja Ward along the road to Damboa, which is lavishly pasted showing him in kaftan.
The poster bearing ‘The Clarion Call’ inscription shows him contesting on the ruling APC platform. The other main poster showing him in kaftan does not indicate the party on whose platform he is running on.
While his political ambition might be threatened by the massive corruption allegations against him, his ambitions of taking the Biu throne faces a different kind of threat, the opposition of other members of the ruling house.
Maina is said to the grandson of Mai Madu, who was dethroned as the Emir of Biu and banished to Bauchi. Mai Madu was replaced with his brother, the grandfather of the current emir, whose descendants want to keep the stool in their side of the family and hence the opposition to Maina’s turbaning.
“The dispute, I understand, is in the process of being resolved now at the Emirate level; and as soon as it is finally resolved he will be turbaned accordingly,” a source in Biu told our correspondent.
Another source however thinks that might not be the case in view of Maina’s current ordeal.
“The Emir may either have received orders from above against turbaning him or the Biu Emirate Council may have resolved wisely to put that ceremony on hold until he is cleared of this mess or, at least, the current tension over him is doused,” he said.
But on the political front, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that Maina had already set machinery in motion and had held meetings with politicians in the state to in both Biu, Maiduguri and Kaduna.
Maina’s interest in politics is not new as he was said to have contested for but failed to win the chairmanship of Biu Local Government in the 1980s.
Being from the South of Borno, which is yet to provide a governor of the state, Maina is thought to enjoy the support of people in his locality.
“Biu people want him among the main contestants of the governorship, in fact the preferred one because, we believe, he possesses the reverence and wherewithal to shift the seat from the Northern to Southern Borno,” a resident of Biu said.
Another resident who spoke to Daily Trust said Maina was a regular visitor to Biu but couldn’t now say in which of his houses he stays when he visits.
“I cannot say in which of his houses he stays; but let me even show you their family house by the Emir’s palace,” he said.
Our correspondent in Kaduna reports that it was easy for Maina to hide in the city at the peak of the manhunt for him as he owns many properties there.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been able to identify six properties which include a two-storey shopping plaza at number 2C Ibrahim Taiwo Road, and a one-storey duplex at Katuru Road and four other houses on Kano Road, Kawo extension.
But it is obvious that Maina does not live in any other properties so far sealed by the EFCC.
An orange seller near the gate of the Katuru Road residence, which has been sealed by EFCC, told our correspondent who visited the place that Maina hardly comes there as it is one of his sisters that lives there.
Kaduna has played a major role in Maina political ambitions.
Late in September, some elders and youths from Borno State converged in Kaduna to persuade Dr. Abdulrasheed Maina to contest for the Governorship seat of Borno State in 2019 and met with his cousin, Aliyu Maina at a guest house. Maina was said to be well aware of what was going on.
Led by Alhaji Abubakar Ali Biu, the delegation said they are of the opinion that Maina’s courage in fighting corruption as the chairman, Presidential Pension Reform Taskforce Team, where he was able to recover N1.6trn both in cash and asset for the Federal government has earned him a reputation among his people.
Leader of Northern Borno Youths Movement Mamman Isa alongside his counterpart in Central Borno Sulaiman Mohammed said Maina who also spoke on the occasion said Maina has a passion to take Borno to the promised land.
Alhaji Aliyu Maina, a cousin to Abdulrasheed Maina, wh0 received them thanked the people and said, “We as a family will consult among ourselves alongside out brother, Dr Abdulrasheed Maina and get back to you. Though it is not yet time for political activities, we shall give you feedback after our family consultation.”
A political associate of Maina who does not want to be named, said the controversial civil servant did part of his graduate programme abroad but could not say in which particular country.
He said though the patriarch of the Main family who was an ambassador is late and had lived in Kaduna, most of the family members have remained in Kaduna.