20 February 2013

Nigeria: Pension Fraud - House Concurs With Senate On Maina's Sack

In a show of legislative solidarity, the House of Representatives Tuesday concurred with an earlier resolution of the Senate asking President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, and prosecute him for alleged fraud in his tour of duty.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, urged the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to use every available means including collaboration with INTERPOL to ensure that Maina is apprehended and duly prosecuted.

"We cannot be fighting corruption by selective process. We cannot be pretending to be fighting corruption and be condoning corrupt officials in government at the same time," he said.

In a veiled reference to the executive arm of government, Tambuwal urged 'those in higher paces' not to condone corruption or shield corrupt officials from prosecution as that would be akin to paying lip service to the anti-graft war.

In a motion of urgent public importance, the House said it was backing the upper chamber of the parliament in demanding the dismissal of Maina from the civil service because his refusal to honour the invitation of the Senate was an act of executive impunity and a slap on the face of the National Assembly.

The Senate had last week Wednesday, passed a resolution requesting that Maina be dismissed from the public service immediately and be disengaged from all acts relating to public duty.

The upper chamber also summoned the IG to appear before the Committee on Police Affairs to give reasons why he did not act on the warrant issued by the President of the Senate.

It was also resolved that Maina should be investigated and prosecuted.

Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, who move the concurrence motion at plenary Tuesday, said the House was acting, conscious of the need to present a common front with respect to the institutional integrity of the National Assembly.

Sam-Tsokwa said the House was also aware of the need to send a strong signal to the executive arm of the government of the resolve of the National Assembly to stop impunity and disregard for due process in the conduct of government business.

However, contrary to the parliamentary practices, the concurrence motion assumed a life of its own as the lawmakers took turns to comment on the attitude of Maina since the saga began and the suspicion that he had the backing of some highly placed persons in the executive arm of government.

Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said contrary to the perception by some Nigerians, the demand by the legislature to have Maina fired and brought to book was not a usurpation of the functions of the executive but rather a reminder to the executive on what it ought to do.

Gbajabiamila argued that the constitution empowers the legislature to summon anybody on any matter it has powers to investigate and to recommend any public official for dismissal if the need arises.

"When the executive gives an order and that order is disobeyed, heads must roll; if the judiciary gives an order and that order is disobeyed heads must roll and if the legislature, an equal arm of government, gives a directive and that directive is not obeyed, heads must roll," Gbajabiamila said.

Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa described the actions of Maina in shunning the summon of the Senate as the height of impunity. She said the common position adopted by the Senate and the House on the matter would send a strong signal to everybody not to take the parliament for granted.

The same position was echoed in the subsequent contributions of Hon. Bitrus Kaze, Hon. Samson Osagie and Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Chairman, House Committee on Aviation.

An attempt by the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba to end the prolonged and repeated arguments was rebuffed.

Jagaba has observed that prolonged debates were not required in a motion of concurrence as the matter had been sufficiently thrashed by the legislators at the upper chamber.

Also the lone voice of Hon. Kingsley Chinda which sought to render the entire exercise a nullity was ignored.

Chinda had argued that while the parliament was right in condemning any act of fraud, the procedure adopted by the House in the case of Maina was faulty. He said that contrary to the impression created by some lawmakers in the course of the debate, the executive had already begun the process of bringing Maina to answer to the allegations levelled against him.

In spite of the open endorsement of the anti-Maina posture by the House there were speculations that the House Committee on Pension Matters was at loggerheads with the Senate Ad hoc Committee that investigated the Police Pensions Fund and indicted Maina.

The House Committee on Pensions had in a memo addressed to the Head of Service of the Federation criticised the senate report and urged President Jonathan to ensure adequate protection for the Chairman of Presidential Task Team on Pension Reform to carry out his assignment.

The memo was signed by the House Committee Chairman on Pensions, Ibrahim Bawa Kamba and titled: "Urgent Call on Mr President to Further Give Protection and Directive to the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reform to Continue To Carry Out Thorough, Comprehensive/Holistic Pension Reform across All MDAs and Parastatals to a logical conclusion.

In the secret memo, the Committee said that according to its own findings, "the Presidential Task Team on Pension

Reform should be the only genuine veritable vehicle for executing reform agenda on Pension Funds."

The memo also stated that: "In the light of corruption in the management of Pension Funds within MDAs and parastatals, the House Committee on Pensions wishes to call on President Jonathan to direct the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reform to overhaul and continue to reform all MDAs and Parastatals pension administration."

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