The Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) headed by Abdulrasheed Maina has disclosed that it cannot appear before the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Services and States and Local Governments, which is investigating pension matters, because it has lost confidence in the committee.
Chairman of the PRTT, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, who stated this yesterday in Abuja, also disclosed that his team had recovered and saved the sum of N241 billion from the Police Pension and the Head of Service Pension Offices as at October 2012.
According of him, the N241 billion comprises funds seized by the PRTT from pension thieves, idle funds traced and safeguarded in the banks as well as projected estimates of what government ought to have expended on pensions as a result of the Task Team's effort in cutting cost of pension administration in the country.
Maina, who led members of the Task Team on a courtesy visit to LEADERSHIP's Head Office in Abuja, said he had lost confidence in the Senate Pension Probe Committee because of the discovery that there are elements of vindictiveness and bias in the conduct of the senators.
He said that the Senate Committee had already found the Task Team guilty during its hearing in Abuja when the duo of Senators Aloysius Etuk and Kabiru Gaya appeared on television studios and press conferences to condemn the PRTT while their investigations were still ongoing.
"During the Senate Committee hearing, Nigerians witnessed, through a live TV transmission, the high level of persecution against the Task Team. From the first day of our appearance before the Senate Committee, our chairman was declared 'wanted' and was ordered to be arrested by the Police, while the committee embarrassed and vilified him as if it was a crime to make sincere sacrifices for this country."
He also stated that Senator Etuk used the police to harass and prevent him (Maina) from going to mosque for Friday prayers, a serious breach of his religious rights as Muslim, and that on another occasion, the senator had asked that the legal adviser of the Task Team be detained by the police for presenting a medical report showing that the Task Team chairman was ill.
He expressed surprise that the leadership of the Senate Probe Committee was very polite, accommodating and friendly to Dr Shuaibu Sani Teidi, a man he described as "a suspect who was arrested for pension loots running into billion of naira seized from him."
Maina went on: "He (Dr Teidi) was protected by the Senate Committee and given ample time to talk and present his position without interference, unlike the chairman of PRTT who was also hosed down each time he wanted to explain very important points, thereby causing the "hunter to become the hunted.
"Senator Aloysius Etuk sought protection of the police for Dr Teidi during the public hearing on March 9,, 2012. Senator Etuk verbally queried the former Head of Service of the Federation, Professor Afolabi, for suspending Dr Shuaibu Teidi. Throughout the report of the committee, as presented to the Senate, there is not a single place that the committee mentioned one single pension thief that the Task Team had caused its arrest, seizure of their pension loot and subsequent prosecution.
"The committee's report did not ask or explain to Nigerians who stole N5.25 billion on monthly basis in the Police and Head of Service Pension Offices before the Task Team came in to stop the looting and subsequently restructure the offices.
"The Senate Committee's report indicated that the Task Team gave a contract of N1.8 billion, when they know that the team does not have right to approve one naira for itself as a non-statutory body, yet saved over N181 billion and caused the seizure of over 200 properties for the nation out of which N74 billion was used to augment the 2012 budget deficit."
Maina also queried the Senate Committee report for its silence on the over N19 billion stolen through the withdrawal of N300 million daily "that our forensic experts detected," adding that some of the suspects were presently facing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Maina stated that the members of the PRTT deserved redress for the bias, unfairness and injustice meted to them by the same Pension Probe Committee under the co-chairmanship of senators Etuk and Kabiru Gaya, just as he declared his team's unwillingness to deal with the Senate committee .
"It is in the light of these observations that we inform you that we would not like to appear before this same committee that persecuted and is still persecuting the Task Team, that has publicly insulted and indicted the team without genuine supporting facts," Maina said.
In an earlier document from the Task Team addressing the fact of the matter, the PRTT observed that it was obvious that the Senate Committee was either misguided by the vested interests or, for reasons best known to it, decided to ignore the facts, thus reaching many conclusions and making recommendations that would further aid the pilfering of public funds and increase the suffering of pensioners.
"The entire exercise, from the hearing to the report of the committee, it appears, was geared towards one purpose - to discredit the Abdulrasheed Maina-led task team, disband it, stop the reform it embarked on and return pension administration to the era of free and mindless looting of funds meant for the administration of pension in the country," he stressed.
The Task Team also called the attention of the leadership of the Senate to the fact that the committee was accused of collecting billions from pension fund thieves to forestall their prosecution and stop further investigations into the mindless pillage of pension funds.
It alleged that Dr Teidi, a former director of Pension in the Head of Service of the Federation, who is being prosecuted along with 31 others, had alleged that Etuk and other members of the committee had collected N3 billion bribes from him.
Enumerating the achievements of the PRTT since inception in June 2010, Maina said the Team had recovered and saved over N241 billion by October 23, 2012, conducted biometric capturing for over 170,000 pensioners, detected and deleted 73, 000 ghost pensioners from the Head of Service Pension Office, traced and cracked down on Pension cartel/mafia, and stopped monthly stealing of N4.25 billion from the HOS Pension Office, among others.
The pension Reform Task Team said it would like to correct the wrong perception of the public that the Team had connection in the missing N195 billion funds in the military, Police, DSS, CIPPO and the Head of Service Pension Officer from 2005 to 2010.
"It is important to note that the Pension Team is barely two years old. The Pension Task Team does not control or approve the utilisation of the finances of the aforementioned pension offices, and for this reason, it could not have been possible for anybody to hold the Team accountable for an allegedly missing funds by other pension offices to which the Team has not control over," he stated.