Steve Oronsaye, former Head of Service of the Federation on Monday accused bank officials of conniving with pension fraudsters.
Oronsanye stated this during the ongoing public hearing of Ad-hoc Committee investigating the activities of the presidential task force on pensions reforms from 2010 to the time of its dissolution and any other successor agency.
The former Head of Service who confirmed sharp practices in the pension administration under his watch, disclosed that he submitted a report to the former National Security Adviser (NSA) and also redeployed the Director who was in charge of pensions in his office.
He said: “I didn’t query him (director). What I did was to remove him from that office.
“Frankly, it was obviously a collusion. If the banks did not collaborate, it wouldn’t have happened. I think it was sufficient to say that since I have found this, it was no longer safe to have you there.”
Oronsanye however said that during his tenure as the Head of Service of the Federation, he set up a committee that carried out a comprehensive verification exercise on the number of federal pensioners.
According to him, a number of ghost pensioners were discovered during the verification exercise which led to reduction in the monthly expenditure of N1.5 billion to N882 million.
He said: “In the pension payroll at the time, there was about 106,000 pensioners. After verification, they captured about 70,000 to 71,000 pensioners. And there was also an additional 50,000 pensioners who had retired many years before that had not been paid.
“In effect, it meant that we were paying about N1.5 billion when we should have been paying a little over N880 million as regular pension. By the time the other 50,000 was included, the figure went up just a little over a billion.
“The amount paid was about N882 million, meaning that we had a significant reduction of a little over N612 million.
“I didn’t cover any pension office. I retired in November 2010. It was after I left that the team metamorphosed into a Presidential pension task force,” he informed the Ad-hoc Committee.
Also speaking, Abel Afolayan, President, Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) accused the Pension Reform Task Force of withholding the pension dues for over one year.
“The task team was just created to reform the pension department of the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as a result of the perceived/alleged rot in the administration of pension at the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
“As a result of this, the Committee became power drunk, exercising powers beyond its reach, suddenly declaring virtually all stakeholders in pension matters ‘thieves’, except the task force that is made up of ‘saints’. This Union suffered a similar fate in an attempt to protest this seemingly aberration, it took the intervention of the 7th Senate and President Goodluck Jonathan for the Union to survive under the Task Force. Union dues were illegally withheld for over a year and its leaders face serious persecution by the Task Force..”
Afolayan further alleged that the Task Force conducted fresh biometric data capturing and pension verification exercise without recourse to the fact that such exercise had been done up to 90% completion with about N234 million already committed to the exercise.
He added that the Task Force did not have back-up files and data to verify the documents/particulars of pensioners, as many as over 71,133 names of pensioners, some of whom were over 85 years old and who had been on pensions for up to 20 years were expunged from the pension payroll and tagged ghost pensioners, thereby reducing the number of genuine pensioners from 141,790 to 70,657.
Afolayan also argued that the Task Force illegally enrolled and snuggled into the pension payroll over 49,395 ghost pensioners thereby bringing the total number of pensioners to 120,733.
“If the total number above is added to the number of illegally expunged as ghost pensioners (71,333) the total number of pensioners would then increase to over 190,000, instead of decreasing appreciably over time,” Afolayan observed.
While ruling, Ananyo Nnebe, chairman of the Adhoc Committee who expressed disoelasure over the absence of major stakeholders invites by the Committee, urged all the invited stakeholders to appear on Wednesday, 14th March, 2018.
“We are giving them a second chance on Wednesday to be here by 1pm. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“PTAD Executive Secretary wrote in to say she was unavoidably absent,” the chairman said.
Recalled that the committee had on Monday, 5th March, 2018 invited former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Winifred Oyo-Ita, Head of Service of the Federation; and Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation; Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police; Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to appear before the committee.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja
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Author: KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja