The Senate Committee on Pension has disagreed with the Pension Reform Task Team that it has so far recovered N74 billion from pension fund administrators in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Police Pensions Fund.
The committee insists that the amount claimed to have been recovered from the fund administrators were merely mobbed up from pensions account, thereby making it impossible for the agencies to pay pensioners.
A source in the committee said, “We have evidence to show that Maina-led team has been deceiving the government to think that it actually recovered N74 billion from the pension managers but I can tell you that the money was merely mopped up from existing pension accounts by the task force.
“By the time we are through with our work, we would prove to Nigerians that the task force actually deceived the nation, including the Minister of Finance, who declared recently that the team saved N74 billion from pension scam.
“We also have incontrovertible evidence that the amount mopped up by the team has also been misappropriated to the tune of N2.8 billion and we have called in the relevant security agencies to look into the matter in the interest of the nation,” the source told leadership weekend.
Among other offences for which the committee wants PRTT prosecuted are, the inclusion of the names of top government officials on the list of those to travel overseas for biometric data capture and withdrawal of the said amount without making the trip.
The committee also accused the team of opening of bank accounts with fake documents purported to have emanated from the Minister of Finance, the award of contract to the tune of N1.8 billion and illegal diversion of pension funds totaling N1.2 billion by the team.
The committee asked the Inspector-General of Police and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to arrest and prosecute the team for alleged misappropriation of funds.
But the House of Representatives Committee on Pension, which has since turned in its report, commended the PRTT for a wonderful job and recommended it to the federal government to be retained for permanent management of pensions in the country.
The team, which is believed to have the support of the Presidency and the Minister of Finance, is credited with having recovered stolen pension funds stashed away by corrupt officials amounting to N74 billion.
It was based on the activities of the PRTT and its claims of discovery of massive pension scam that the two chambers of the NASS mandated their committees on Pension and Establishment Matters to investigate those involved in the fraud with a view to sanitizing the pension scheme.
Satisfied that the Maina-led team has done a wonderful job, the House committee headed by Hon. Ibrahim Bawa Kamba, asked the Federal Government to retain the team and integrate it into the mainstream of pension administration in Nigeria.
In a letter entitled ‘Need to Design a Humane Pension Policy’ with reference No. NASS/7HR/CT.68/05 and dated April 19, 2012, the committee noted that the Maina-led task force had succeeded in stemming the tide of pension fraud and recorded a milestone in recovering misplaced/misappropriated pension funds.
Part of the letter, which was copied the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the National Security Adviser, Inspector General of Police, the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security Service, read, “That, as a matter of national interest, the PRTT should be retained as a ‘Standing Pension Reform Task Team’ which the Federal Government could deploy at any given moment to solve peculiar ‘knotty’ cases across the MDAs in the face of incessant complaints before the House Committee on Pensions.”
But the chairman of the PRTT, Abdurasheed Maina, has denied all the allegations leveled against him, saying that he was being persecuted by the senate committee for doing a wonderful job for the country.
Maina, who addressed journalists in Abuja, pointed out that the allegation that he forged letters to open a new account for the administration of police pension fund was false, as he sought and obtained the approval of the Accountant General of the Federation before doing so.
He also denied the allegation that he diverted recovered pension funds into his brother’s account in one of the banks, saying that the man in question was not related to him in anyway.
Maina said that contrary to allegations that he opened fraudulent accounts for the fund, he actually compelled a first generation bank in Lagos to transfer the police pension fund worth N28 billion from Lagos to Abuja in line with the law establishing the fund.
He said that contrary to the figure of 19, 712 police pensioners, which the syndicate had been using to defraud the government of the sum of N520 million monthly, the task force established that there were only 17,568 genuine police pensioners in the payroll with a monthly pension commitment of N462, 503,759.38.
He said that the officials were angry that the task force discovered a total of 2014 ghost pensioners on whose heads the corrupt officials were making N56, 746, 399.76 monthly.
For what the government considers as his gallantry, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has consistently praised the Maina-led PRTT, saying that it recovered over N74 billion of stolen pension funds, which has been ploughed back into the budget.