Daily Trust (Abuja)

21 June 2012

Nigeria: Pension Scam - N273 Billion Looted in Six Years

From 2005 to 2011, top government officials in charge of pension funds in the country stole N273.9 billion, the report of the recent investigation into the alleged mismanagement of the funds by a Senate panel has revealed.

A copy of the report, obtained yesterday by our correspondent, shows that out of the total sum of N1.025 trillion received as pension funds by the various pension offices and boards within the period, only N751.4 billion was expended, with N273.9 billion looted.

According to the report, out of the N213.3 billion pension funds received by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, only N154.6 billion was disbursed; while the Military Pension Board disbursed only N294bn out of the N317.6bn it received.

The report also reveals that the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office paid only N57.4bn out of the N85.2bn released to it; the Department of State Service Pension Office, N9.4bn out of N34.7bn; and the Police Pension Office, N88.2bn out of N131.4bn.

The report further shows that within the period under review, out of the N176.4bn received by other parastatals as pension funds, only N100.6bn was expended; while only N46.9bn was spent out of the N55.8bn released for the payment of retirees of universities across the nation.

In the report, the Senator Aloysious Etok-led Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and States and Local Government Administration observed what it described as 'syndicated and institutionalised corruption, fraud and embezzlement in the management of pension funds in the country'.

This was made possible, according to the committee, because of beneficial collusion and conspiracy by government officials.

The committee recommended, among other things, that the chairman of the Pension Task Team, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina and all members of the team be arrested and prosecuted by the police for "the crimes of embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, misapplication, illegal virements, contract splitting, award of contracts to non-existing companies, outright stealing of police pension funds, among others".

It also recommended that the team be immediately disbanded "as its continued existence and usurpation of statutory functions and violation of extant laws is illegal, as also recommended by the two former Heads of Service, Chief Steve Oronsanye and Prof. Adedapo Afolabi as well as the incumbent, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali".

The crimes committed by Maina's team, according to the committee, include: illegal contract splitting and award to the tune of N1.8bn; spending N1.6bn as running cost of the police pension instead of N80 million appropriated; spending N830.8 million purportedly for the payment of June 2010 pension using cheques instead of e-payment system; dubious enrolment of pensioners into the payroll, 49,395; spending N234 million on the already 90 percent completed biometric capturing with no files, data and documents from the pension department; spending N17 million on the biometric verification of less than 30 pensioners in Diaspora without recourse to the Nigerian Embassy/High Commission responsible for such.

The committee also noted that 5.01 million workers, in both public and private sectors, had so far been registered by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) under the new contributory pension scheme, with a total of N2.45 trillion pension assets as of last December.

It added that a total of N604.27 billion had been credited into the contributory pension accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria out of which N449.35 billion was remitted into the Retirement Savings Account of the federal employees with the various pension funds administrators.

Senate President David Mark said the report would be debated today.

Our correspondent reports that it took the committee about four months to conclude the investigation.

In a bid to put an end to the plight of pensioners in the country, the Senate late last year mandated the committee to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the perceived mismanagement of pension funds in the country. The committee began the process of the investigation in February with a visit to the headquarters of the various geo-political zones.

At the series of public hearings held in Abuja between February and May, the committee invited various stakeholders including former and serving chairmen of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Farida Waziri and Ibrahim Lamorde, as well as former Heads of Civil Service of the Federation, Professor Adedapo Afolabi, Chief Steve Oronsanye and the incumbent, Alhaji Sani Bello Sali. The management of the Pension Reform Task Force, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, officials of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation also appeared at the hearings.

Daily Trust recalled that the investigation first attracted attention of the public in March with the discovery that over N26 billion meant for the payment of police retirees was traced to six commercial banks where it was domiciled. Perhaps, more shocking was the revelation that the Pension Reform Taskforce opened 70 bank accounts to allegedly siphon pension funds and transferred same to the various banks without the authorization of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

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