Loot recovered by pensions task force hits N182b

Abbdulrasheed-MainaPanel denies bribing Senate committee

THE Pensions Reform Task Force set up by President Goodluck Jonathan is still making progress in recovering funds looted from the scheme by some key functionaries of the state.

From the fresh facts unveiled yesterday by the Task Force Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the panel has now retrieved N182 billion as against N151 billion it recovered from the pensions’ managers in the public sector.

Only on Wednesday, the panel had disclosed that N74 billion of the N151 billion loot that it retrieved had been channelled into the 2012 budget.

Maina has also declared that there was no time the team attempted to bribe the Senate Committee on Establishment because “there was simply no reason to do so.”

In a reaction to statements credited to the Senate panel chief yesterday by some national dailies that the task force attempted to bribe his members, Maina said: “It never happened.”

The task force boss, who addressed journalists on the activities of the body in Abuja, said he refused to believe that the allegations were really coming from the Senate committee, asserting that all the information that the Upper House committee had on corruption in the pensions scheme were given to it by the task force.

Maina said he respected the leadership of the committee and that of the Senate, and therefore did not believe such allegations could have emanated from them; “not when the minister of finance had informed them that she had frozen the recovered money on the team’s request.”

He also allayed the fears of the public, especially pensioners, whom he noted had been apprehensive that the team had been disbanded.

According to him, the team would continue to work until Jonathan asked it to stop.

“It’s as a result of the work carried out by the pensions reform task team that we were able to recover such colossal funds; about N182 billion. Mr. President instructed that all pensioners must be paid their benefits, the beneficiaries of those that have died must be paid their death benefit while those who have never been paid must be paid their accumulated pensions.”

“Definitely in doing that, we will step on so many toes and in trying to cleanse the system, you will have resistance. We have had this issue for over 44 years. The President has delivered on pensions and we are going to accomplish more tasks in sanitising the pensions system in Nigeria. Pensioners from other pensions departments such as Nigerian Railways, Nigerian Airways are calling us to come and cleanse their offices. We will wait for the President’s directive as per that.”

The task team, he continued, “is a creation of the Executive arm of government and the President has not wound up the pensions reform task team yet. We have information going round that the task team has been disbanded. It has not been disbanded. We are working as directed by the President and he has ordered us to ensure that pensioners are paid as at when due.”

He said the team had built an institution, which would continue to function even if he (Maina) left office. “It’s not only if I’m here that things will work. We have developed an e-pension solution. In the past, we have seen how pensioners were dying in the office of the Head of Service (HoS) and how they used to live under the bridges in Abuja.”‘

Maina, however, warned pensioners against dubious individuals, who now use the name of the task team to defraud pensioners, with a promise to help them get their benefits increased.

“We were able to intercept a few people who use the name of the task team to collect money from pensioners promising to help increase their pension benefits. We have arrested one or two,” he said, and urged pensioners not to fall victim of such claims from anyone.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Chairman of Rules and Business Committee in the House of Representatives, Sunday Adepoju, has described as barbaric the scam in the Police Pensions Office, saying a situation where those, who were to superintend the scheme, end up misusing the money called for concern.

The lawmaker told journalists in Ibadan on Thursday that he was opposed to plea-bargaining as a means of acquitting corrupt political office holders in the country.

Adepoju, representing Ibarapa East/Iddo Federal Constituency, argued that plea-bargaining was a tacit way of encouraging corruption in high places.

The lawmaker lamented that corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of the society and called for a holistic approach to curbing the menace for the nation to make progress.

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