BY AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja –
Officials in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHSF) are jittery over fresh revelations on how they used the office as cesspool for pension fund fraud in the country between 2010 and 2014, LEADERSHIP checks have revealed.
It was gathered that some startling disclosures made by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) have been sending jitters down the spines of the HoS officials, especially those who were in the office during the stated period.
The chief law officer of the country also revealed that the pension syndicate former chairman of Presidential Task Team on Pension Reform, Abdurasheed Maina, had problem with at the time had serious link with the presidential villa to the point of plotting to assassinate him.
AGF Malami had, in the course of appearing before the Senate Ad- hoc committee investigating the botched reinstatement and promotion of Maina, made a written submission unearthing how the pension frauds were perpetrated based on privilege information gathered from relevant sources.
LEADERSHIP learnt from the office of Head of Service of the Federation that many of the officials, who were around during the alleged scam, but not in position of Directorship or Permanent Secretary now, are lobbying to be transferred to other establishments in order to be off the radar of investigation.
It was gathered that following the AGF’s assurance to the Senate committee that despite Maina’s orchestrated controversy by the pension fraud syndicate, government through his office would still go after the pension thieves, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are said to be finalising moves to investigate serving officials in the office of the HoS who were involed in the scam.
Malami had in his written submission disclosed that he met with Maina in the United Arab Emirates with the permission of security agencies.
He stated: “Please permit me to state for the records that my first meeting with Mr Maina was sometime in January 2010 during our official visit to the United Arab Emirate (UAE) when Nigeria executed different Bilateral Agreement with the government of UAE on trade finance and judicial matters.
“My meeting with Maina was after securing a No Objection from the Director General of the State Security Service who also advised that the meeting must be attended by a third party.
“At the meeting, Maina made startling revelations into the high-level Pension Fraud Syndicate existing in Nigeria which he claimed involves several high ranking former and current political office holders in Nigeria together with their cronies.
“Maina claimed that there was an attempt to eliminate him during one of his visits to the villa and that he was only able to survive the attack because his vehicle was armored. Consequently he had to run for dear life by seeking refuge in the UAE.
“Maina has been part of this syndicate, things fell-art between him and the syndicate and he allegedly left bthe shores of Nigeria upon alleged threat to his life’’.
The AGF said Maina alleged that N3.7 billion pension funds were being shared on a monthly basis among powerful members of the syndicate, just as ghost pensioners were deliberately included in the Police and Military pension records in order to commit fraud.
“It was in consequence of the briefing and armed with the information provided that the information was shared among MDAs on account of which we succeeded as a Government by way of eliminating a lot of leakages in the pension sectors of the federation and recording drastic reduction in the pension bill that runs in billions of naira”, he added.
Malami further disclosed that the office of Head of Service, in facilitating the fraud then, had 66 separate accounts for pensioners usually presented as 2014, 258, 000 pensioners for payment per month as against the actual figure of 141, 762 defrauding government of billions of naira which, was the largest chunk of the N42bn fraud.
He said, “There are twelve (12) pending criminal charges bordering on variants of financial crimes currently pending at different courts with an aggregate value of fourteen billion and three hundred million naira (N14.3 Billion)
“The ongoing cases are being continuously compromised by the powerful syndicate. Senior lawyers are being withdrawn from the prosecution of these cases and very junior lawyers were assigned to handle them. The intention was always to slow down progress of the cases and turn back the hands of the clock both in terms of speed and sustenance of the coordinated memory. Principal actors in the syndicate were left off the book and never charged while the low profile actors are left to their date standing trial”.
According to the AGF, some of the pending cases of the pension thieves that would be pursued very vigorously in the coming year are the 21-count charge against Dr Sani Teidi, Omo Eric Uduesegbe and other companies before Justice Gabriel Kolawole, 10- count charge against Abdul Moh’d and 3 other companies before Justice AFA Ademola as well as 13 other similar cases.
Malami said, “Let me state however that barrage of organized and coordinated media attack against the office of AGF can best be appreciated not from exclusive point of reinstatement of Maina but from a larger perspective of pension fraud syndicate and their antics over time to suppress any attempts at associated investigations.’’