Exclusive: Battle over ‘Idle’ N20 bn Police Pension Fund: Why Task Force Members May Quit
Professor Afolabi:In the eye of the storm
A massive battle is going on to seize control of what has been described as more than N20 billion idle or excess police pension fund.Newsdiaryonline investigations revealed that the struggle for the fund is so intense that even the Pension Reform Task Force members whose efforts led to the exposure of the idle fund are now being intimidated and frustrated to the extent that some of them want to simply quit the special assignment given to them .Hints that the men are thinking of resigning has led to anxiety over the idle Police Pension funds.Police sources said they were shocked to hear that even the Finance Minister,Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has approved the recent appointment of KPMG to review the pension issue after the officials of government including men described as people of integrity from various security agencies have done a thorough job. A startled security source revealed that he just suddenly heard that KPMG has been appointed to review the workdone so far.”We suspect that the finance minister has been misled into doing what may tarnish her image .There are people who want to just grab and share the pension funds that have been saved from the task force’s effort and if care is not taken that is what may happen.People,I mean the pension mafia comprising powerful people want to loot the funds.We understand the task force guys have refused to allow them to steal the pension funds so they are trying to push the chaps out of the system.Sadly the task force member are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed already’’ cried an insider.
It all began like a move laced with the best of intentions.After working tooth and nail to reform the pension system in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, the Task Force set up by Steve Orosanye got a new mandate.They were told to go and restructure the police pension system and they had a three month period within which they should finish the job.
Newsdiaryonline learnt from highly placed police sources that the pension task force members led by Abdulrashid Maina started their work and made some reform moves which saved the system of about N20 billion .But it seemed the those who gave the task force members the assignment had a different plan which is now referred to as a hidden agenda.
According to Newsdiaryonline investigations ,the restructuring of the Police Pension scheme began vide a letter to the Pension Reform Task Force by Prof Oladapo Afolabi who was then the Head of Service .Sources said he had written a letter dated June 8, 2011 with reference number HCSF/062/S.1/11/21 to the task force urging them to reform the Police Pension system. Newsdiaryonline learnt that the task force which has representatives of key security agencies like the State Security Service,SSS, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences, ICPC and others indeed began a thorough job that eventually saved billions of Naira.The task force it was learnt was given three months to do its job.
Police sources said they discovered that some highly placed people did not want the task force to accomplish its task and the job is now mired in intrigues. According to a source, about 22 days to the end of the job being doing by the task force ,Professor Afolabi suddenly appointed one Mr Y K Adeyemi to take over from the task force as a director of the police pension.
Mr Adeyemi was said to have made his way into the Police Pension office .He did not only take over the office ,he began writing to the banks holding the pension funds.He told the banks that he was now effectively charge.He wrote to the bank on the 23rd of August.But the banks did not honour him with a reply.Again on the 24 of August he wrote to the banks that he was yet to receive the mandate sheet .As his tussle with the banks continued the Head of Service then, Prof Afolabi on the 7TH of September wrote a letter to the banks introducing Y.K Adeyemi as the new director of police pension fund.He quoted the account number which the banks were required to effect the change of signatory.
An angry police source said virtually all the banks, refused to comply ,perhaps because they suspected foul play. Only First Bank bank complied.And there is anger now among unionists because according to sources as soon as First Bank complied ,the sum of N119,979,952.8 was withdrawn from the account of the Police Pension Fund the same day the former head of service wrote to the banks. Some valid questions are being asked by sources: Why was the Head of Service who just had about a month to retire so keen in replacing the head of the Police Pension? Interestingly sources at the records office have revealed that even Adeyemi is scheduled to retire in about five months.So why put a man like that in charge of such a critical position?Even the Accountant General of the Federation JO Otunla said to be a loyalist of the then outgoing Head of service was alleged to have written to the banks urging them to recognize Adeyemi .Informed sources are wondering why the sudden hurry to change the leadership of the police penion after the task force had done some professional work that has identified multibillion Naira idle funds.
Newsdiaryonline learnt that when Okonjo Iweala initially learnt that the efforts of the task force were stalled, she called for a brief and afterwards,she consulted with President Goodluck Jonathan.Subsequently,she urged the task force to go ahead with the reform of the police pension.But even police topguns were shocked to find out that the finance minister later made a u- turn as she issued a counter directive to the task force in Setember saying the President has approved the use of KPMG to review the activities of the task force.Iweala reportedly said the last letter to the task force should be considered as superior and it ‘supercedes’ earlier directives.Newsdiaryonline learnt that this turn of events has shocked everyone who is wondering what may be going on.Investigations by Newsdiaryonline revealed however that some powerful forces were said to have lobbied to ensure that the task force was stopped from continuing with the police pension reform proceedings.
There is shock because the good work by the task force has not even been appreciated by the government. Members who were carefully selected have faced threat to their lives, intimidation and regular negative campaigns by those described a the pension mafia. Recently members of retired police officer union urged the House of reperesentative to look into the withdrawal of Money from First bank account because those whom the funds were used to pay may be fake and non existent.
But it was learnt that the fact that the House of Representatives is asking questions already is making some key members in the executive arm of government angry.That is why many who spoke to Newsdiaryonline are suggesting that a thorough probe of this scandal should be embarked upon by the National Assembly.
When Newsdiaryonline attempted to reach the pension office for clarification, the policemen on guard said the officials had gone at the ministry of finance for a meeting.But investigations revealed that members of the task force have resolved to pull out and hand over as requested. Police sources are asking questions already:why has the government not mopped up the N20 billion excess fund from the police pension? Why has it not been taken to the treasury? It was further learnt that the work of the task force earlier saved several billions in the pension office of the office of the Head of service, where has the money gone to? N16 billion is believed to be in Union Bank . Another N15.5 is said to be in Zenith Bank and much more. Sources said all these billions were saved from 2010 till date.The question now, according to a source is:where has all this money gone to? Why are we taking this country for a ride?These task force people are trying to fix the sytem and they are now being frustrated out,why?
“Well I can tell you that the task force members now feel like orphans’’ said the source.”We even understand that the new Head of service may have been brainwashed and that may be why he has not even called for a thorough briefing from the task force members since he came in ‘’ the source added. Isa Bello Sali is the new head of service of the federation.He took over from professor Afolabi.It was Steve Orosanye who handed over to Afolabi that set up the task force.In fact there is a feeling among security sources that Orosanye should be brought back in any capacity to drive this pension reform which he started because the team appears to have been lost. “ It was Steve Orosanye that created the task force on pension reform why can’t he be brought back in another capacity to drive this reform’’ asked a union source who feels frustrated and he concluded by saying “otherwise only the press and the national assembly can save us from this unfortunate development over the police pension scheme.’’
The pension reforms started by Orosanye led to the uncovering of a huge scam.Some topshots were arrested and charged to court by the EFCC.The commission recovered over N20billion in the pension office of the office of Head of Service alone.
Police sources warn that those attempting to loot the pension fund should beware because all the security and anti corruption agencies are represented at the task force and they have all the records of transactions and proceedings so far.” Let me tell you, the source continued, ”as a proof that these task force men are good, even the DG of the SSS(Mr. Ita Ekpeyong ) has asked them to come and reform the pension system of the SSS. We understand some people tried to convince the DG not to get the task force to do it but the DG SSS insists he wants them to do a good job for the SSS. Remember that the SSS to has its representative in the task force, so the DG SSS is not ignorant of what is going on.’’