By AbdulRaheem Aodu
Embattled ex-Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina has revealed that over N3 trillion hidden pension fund is yet to be mopped up from 97 pension offices before he fled the country.
Maina, in the letter dated 19th June 2015, which he wrote to Senate President Bukola Saraki shortly after his return to the country, was seeking for a review of his case and the probing of the various actions taken against him by the 7th senate.
Maina who spoke through an aide, Mr Jide Fashikun, accused some senators in the 7th senate of intimidating him to submission while aiding and abetting “pension thieves” across the country.
The letter which was addressed to Senator Saraki was titled: “Pension reform task team – Appeal for review of investigation probe by Senate joint committee on establishment and public service and states and local government administration 2011 – 2013.”
The letter which was sighted by Blueprint Weekend in Kaduna yesterday alleged that the task team which took off effectively in January 2011 saved the country N1.6trillion from “pension thieves”.
The letter stated that the over N3 trillion allegedly hidden in the 97 government agencies, was waiting to be retrieved as at 2015. According to Maina’s spokesman, “we used financial intelligence skills to achieve ground-breaking achievements in our assignment. We recovered and saved cash and properties worth over N1.6trillion.”
Mr Fashikun claimed that Maina’s team’s efforts led to the arrest of 46 persons and firms involved in looting of pension funds which were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), whose trial is still ongoing.
The leaked letter indicated that the pension boss resurfaced in the country shortly after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari in May 29, 2015.
Members of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) apologized to Saraki in the letter ‘’for our little late response to reaching back to you. We had to put the issues together and source for appurtenant materials.’’
The letter then recapped how the task team came about.
Why PRTT was set up
‘’As a refresher, the PRTT was inaugurated on 10th June, 2010 by the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, with a clear mandate to restructure the Head of Service Pension Office, Police Pension Office, among others. We did our utmost with precision and national interests as our guiding principles
“The PRTT took off effectively by January 2011. We used financial intelligence skills to achieve ground-breaking achievements in our assignment.
“As it is, there is a leakage of N256 billion monthly from the current IPPIS which needs to be blocked urgently. We are also aware of some government hidden accounts which need to be mopped up.
We can be used to engage any department of government in sanitising the financial workflow to avoid loose ends that remain susceptible to leakages.
“Based on the revelations of massive/ monumental fraud and outright stealing of pension funds, which was brought to public attention by the PRTT, the 7th National Assembly by resolution dated 2nd November, 2011 mandated its Committee on Establishment and Public Service, State and Local Government Administration, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the management and administration of Pension funds in Nigeria.
‘’There was general expectation that the various dimensions of irregularities associated with the management of Pension funds in Nigeria would come to an end as a consequence of the investigations being conducted by the Senate Joint Committee.”
Senate joint committee haunted PRTT
Maina maintained that the Senate Joint Committee ended up creating more problems than solutions to the endemic corruption and fraud prevailing in the system because while the Senate haunted them, it favoured the “pension thieves”.
“We became objects of corruption fighting us back, from our first appearance before the Senate committee, it was obvious that the entire exercise conducted by the Committee, was geared towards discrediting the PRTT,’’ he said.
The former pension boss said that before leaving Nigeria, following threats to his life, the PRTT had worked so hard that pension payments stabilized, adding that the biometric system adopted by the team exposed 73,000 ghost pensioners in the office of the Head of Service alone.
According to him, ‘’some pensioners got backlog of about 30 years paid into their accounts. All payments were ordered under the signature of the Head of Service monthly.”
Fresh N35bn fraud in HoS office
Maina also disclosed that shortly after he was forced out of the country, the office of the Head of Office was enmeshed in a N35bn fraud. He added that the ICPC conducted investigation into the matter but regretted that “till date, they are yet to commence the prosecution.”
“Today, it (pension) is worse with the Police pension office where daily so much millions are taken out of pension funds in that office. We have evidences to substantiate this,” he added.
Dismissal: I wasn’t given fair hearing — Maina
Maina noted that his dismissal process was concluded under 36 hours without giving him the opportunity to be heard. “As we write to you, Abdulrasheed A. Maina has been dismissed from Civil Service for being absent for three days while his life was under threat following gunshot attack on his person in front of Head of Civil Service Office, where his office was located in February, 2013, he told Saraki.
“The Task Team and its leadership were not only denied the opportunity for a fair hearing before being pronounced guilty of all manner of allegations, but even where the Task Team appeared before the Committee, salient facts related to the issues at stake were deliberately ignored.”