The eight-man panel set up by the former minister of power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, to investigate pension matters in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has discovered about £2.2 million (N572 million) PHCN pension money stashed away in Barclays Bank, United Kingdom.
This was disclosed during the presentation of the committee's report to the minister of state for power, Arc. Darius Ishaku, in Abuja yesterday.
The committee headed by former auditor-general of the federation Mr Joseph Ajiboye noted that although it met with initial difficulty in getting the financial statement of PHCN, the panel was eventually able to access all required documents and began its search from 1990.
He said the sum of £2.2 million which was traced to the UK bank was unutilised for over 20 years, and efforts to retrieve it were met with bottlenecks. "But we believe the Nigerian high commissioner in London can help in retrieving the money," he said.
Explaining how the money got to Barclays Bank, Ajiboye said PHCN had expatriates at the initial stage whose pensions were supposed to be paid. "We understand that the last expatriate has since died, so there's no need for the account to continue to exist," he said.
More findings, he said, also revealed that, between 1990 and 2010, the total amount of money remitted to the PHCN superannuation fund was N53.6 billion. A breakdown showed that between 1990 and 1999 a total of N1.7 billion was paid into the fund while N51.2 billion was remitted between 2000 and 2010.
On the controversial 25 per cent allegedly deducted from PHCN workers' salary, Ajiboye explained that findings from meetings held with the Nigerian Union of Pensioners and pay slips up to April 2012 presented by PHCN workers revealed that there was no evidence of deduction from any worker's salary.
"All 25 per cent remittance into the superannuation fund was made by PHCN management. The pension fund is not funded by government as was the case of the police and military pensions. It was from their revenue that they funded their pensions.
"Since they have been recording losses for some years now, sometimes there was no money to set aside to fund the pension. The current expenditure of PHCN is not budgeted for; they make their money and pay their staff and run their business," he said.
The panel also disclosed that one of PHCN's properties in Kado, Abuja, was purportedly sold by PHCN management to generate money for the pension fund but noted that there was no record of the money paid into the fund.
In his remarks, Ishaku commended members of the panel for their effort to deliver the report on schedule. He expressed the hope that the report will aid in finding a lasting solution to the lingering PHCN/labour issue which has now been transferred to Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
He said government would also explore ways to retrieve the money stashed overseas. The meeting ended with a visit to the site of PHCN's property.