The Senate Tuesday asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to hands off the investigation of those connected to the police pension fraud, following allegations of the commission’s complicity in the matter.
Two key witnesses, an Assistant Director (Accounts) in the Police Pensions Office, Mr. Toyin Ishola, and a director in the same office, Dr. Shaidu Teddy, had in their separate presentations at the resumed public hearing of the Senate investigative committee probing the management of the national pension scheme, accused the former EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, and the then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde (now the commission’s chairman), of complicity in the illegal withdrawal and transfer of pension funds.
They, however, urged the committee to remove the commission from the investigation since it would also be investigated.
Waziri and Lamorde were alleged to have been among top government officials that travelled to Atlanta, US with a Police Pension Task Force team for the purpose of biometric data capturing of diaspora pensioners. They were also alleged to have collected huge sums of money running into millions of naira for the said trip.
Their names were however said to have appeared on the pension task force voucher as having collected the necessary estacode for the said trip.
The EFCC top brass however denied that they ever travelled to Atlanta for any biometric data capturing purpose.
The EFCC boss, Lamorde, and his predecessor, Waziri, who were at Tuesday’s hearing immediately agreed to the suggestion and the committee asked the police to take over the investigation.
Earlier in her presentation, Waziri had revealed to the committee how some banks in the country aid and abet the perpetration of what she called “monumental fraud” by managers of the national pension scheme.
Pointing out that the banks were not helping the country, Waziri said the fact that “they want funds at all cost, they collude with fraudulent public officials to warehouse monies not minding how the money was made, and allow indiscriminate withdrawals without regards to fiscal regulations”.
She said: “Whether they are from dead bodies, they do not care as long as the monies are in their accounts. Without that bank collusion, they could not have stolen these billions, it is the banks and they knew it.
Waziri said further: “The fraud that was discovered was monumental and I was shocked because I never would have believed that civil servants could do this to each other. Because one day, they are going to be also pensioners and this are their brothers and kin and the money meant for them were carted away because of the love of money. I had occasion to go for verification sometimes in Lagos and I wept there because people came, some were carried in blanket and they were there for months. Some were dying and some of them have no bank account and people capitalise on that and in the end what was given was pittance.
But Waziri’s testimony was rubbished by the revelation by Christian Madueke and Margaret Panja Oyobi both of the pension account office whose accounts were said to have been used to siphon funds from the pension accounts.
Madueke, who narrowly escaped arrest at the venue of the hearing, confirmed the transfer of over N30 billion into his account between 2007 and 2011.
He said about 10 of them in the pension office who have accounts with the First Bank were being used for that purpose as all their accounts were domiciled with John Yusuf account who is in charge of the entire account.
According to him, most of the time, the monies were sent to their accounts without their consent and immediately they got the alert, they had to go and withdraw it and then hand it over to the accountant for onward transmission to another person which he said he did not know.
He said 10 of them were summoned in December 2011 by the EFCC.
Madueke, who appeared Tuesday after the committee threatened to issue a warrant for his arrest for failing to honour the invitation extended to him twice, said he was used because “they see me as someone who will not revolt”.
When asked how much he received as commission for his account which was used, the 36-year- old man said he received nothing except his transport money.
Both Lamorde and Waziri, who were shocked at the revelation by Madueke, immediately suggested that he and Oyobi should be picked up right away, but the committee chairman later allowed them to go free since they are under the protection of the Senate as witnesses.
The committee chairman, Aloysius Etok, while winding up the public hearing, said it was quite a long time that he shed tears but since he assumed office as the chairman of the committee, he had shed tears for more than five times.
Etok wondered if the Pension Task team was a saviour or a villain because of the huge corruption allegedly being perpetrated by the team.
Another drama was brought into the hearing when Waziri asked the committee to take note that whenever the name of the chairman was mentioned, it should not be alluded to her.
But Etok immediately replied that there were documents showing places where her name was mentioned.
He then asked the Permanent Secretary at the office of the Head of Service to give details of how the N4.7 billion account was moved from UBA to Zenith Bank by a letter allegedly written by the former Head of Service (HOS), Steven Oronsanye, and another letter for the transfer of N4.6 billion from Zenith Bank to Union Bank saying, “we must rid the system of all these corruption and save the pensioners the trouble”.