Disband Senate Ad Hoc Committee On Pension Reform Now!Civil Society Groups Tell Mark



The Senate President David Mark  has been urged to dissolve its committee probing the pension fraud.This call was made today by civil society organizations that have also accused the senate committee of attempting to cover up the pension fraud instead of embarking on a thorough investigation of the findings of the Pension Reform Task Force, PRTT.

“We strongly call on the Senate President David Mark to swiftly move  into action to redeem the integrity of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly which has been badly battered by the activity of the Pension Reform committee.The Senate should as a matter of national interest, dissolve the committee and replace the members with more honourable and impartial senators. It is high time that a spade is  called a spade wherever it is seen. The National Assembly should be a tool of smoking out corruption instead of covering it up,”the civil society groups said in a press statement  by Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) Executive Director,CISLAC ,Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim Executive Director, CDD  and Babatunde Oluajo National Secretary, Zero Corruption Coalition.

The group accused the senate committee of avoiding the main issues while pursuing trivialities.Said the CSOs, “We, CISLAC, CDD and ZCC were however shocked  that no sooner than the committee started its work, did signs emerged that the high expectations of Nigerians about its potential to contribute to the war against  corruption would not materialize. Indeed, the manner in which the Committee went about its task of investigation left much to be desired. The tendency toward leaving the issues to pursue trivialities became obvious and elements of bias began to manifest, eroding the neutrality and objectivity required for this crucial assignment and calling the integrity of the legislature to question.

Specifically, “CISLAC and CDD recall  that billions of naira due for pensioners who have diligently served this country, giving the better part of their lives to the service of their fatherland, have been cornered by a few personnel at the various pension offices all over the country. It is worth noting that the Pension Reform Task Team through its work has amongst other achievements  saved the country the whopping N159 billion. Part of the recovered funds have already been returned to the federation account and appropriated for national development.The committee has equally discovered 71,000 ghost workers through biometric verification it initiated..

“However, to our disappointment, the Senate, as represented by the committee, rather than identifying itself with patriotic Nigerians committed to eliminating corruption from our national life, has proceeded in a manner contrary to popular expectation and in disregard for the age-old principles of honour, ethics and integrity. As publicly displayed during the televised hearing, members of the committee seemed to have taken it upon themselves to serve as advocates for the government officials accused of squandering pension funds over the years.

“Therefore, rather than objectively and thoroughly  scrutinizing every detail presented before them, members of the committee have been antagonizing members of the Task Team and providing cover for the people that were obviously found deep in the pension fund scam.

Again, in sheer disregard for transparency, the committee is currently mooting the idea of a closed door session in its investigations. We see this as an attempt at cover up; to deny Nigerians the right to fully know what is happening as well as an opportunity to muscle the course of the hearing to the interest of the committee. Similarly, the Committee has continued to invite some of the accused persons to its hearing for image laundering, contrary to the dictates of the rule of law. We feel that since those persons are already being dragged before a competent court of law, the committee should let them face the charges against them and stop fraternizing with them to the detriment of the sanctity of legislative responsibility.

CISLAC, CDD and ZCC perceive strongly, the unhealthy relationship between members of the senate committee and some of the officials alleged to have fed fat on the pensioners’ entitlements. We strongly suspect as alleged by some media reports that money may have changed hands or else how can the seemingly funny attitude of the committee be explained. There are also allegations that some key members of the committee were  seen in a car alongside some of the accused persons.

“Moreover, the co-chair of the committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, is reported to be a cousin to one of the accused officials. This ordinarily, should automatically disqualify the person of Senator Gaya from his position on the committee as he is an interested party and with a clear conflict of interest.

“While CISLAC, CDD and ZCC prefer to leave the veracity of these allegations  making the rounds to relevant agencies to investigate and also respect the rights of those accused of the fraud to be presumed innocent until convicted by a court of law which process is in progress, we re-affirm our conviction that the conduct of the Senators on the Committee falls short of acceptable behaviour in a civilized society considering the sacred trust that the electorate repose in them.

Read  the full text of the press release:

A CALL TO DISBAND SENATE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON PENSION REFORM FOR DISREGARD FOR ETHICS, BIAS AND LACK OF INTEGRITY

With the constitution of the ad hoc committee to investigate the rot in the management of pension scheme in the country,  the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, and Zero Corruption Coalition, ZCC, like other well meaning Nigerians, thought that the  good work started by the Abdulrasheed Maina-led Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), instituted by the Head of Civil Service of the

Federation would be further complemented.We viewed the decision as an attempt by the Senate to help in cleansing the Augean stable occasioned by deep seated corruption in the system.

We, CISLAC, CDD and ZCC were however shocked  that no sooner than the committee started its work, did signs emerged that the high expectations of Nigerians about its potential to contribute to the war against  corruption would not materialize. Indeed, the manner in which the Committee went about its task of investigation left much to be desired. The tendency toward leaving the issues to pursue trivialities became obvious and elements of bias began to manifest, eroding the neutrality and objectivity required for this crucial assignment and calling the integrity of the legislature to question.

CISLAC and CDD recall  that billions of naira due for pensioners who have diligently served

this country, giving the better part of their lives to the service of their fatherland, have been cornered by a few personnel at the various pension offices all over the country. It is worth noting that the Pension Reform Task Team through its work has amongst other achievements  saved the country the whopping N159 billion. Part of the recovered funds have already been returned to the federation account and appropriated for national development.The committee has equally discovered 71,000 ghost workers through biometric verification it initiated..

However, to our disappointment, the Senate, as represented by the committee, rather than identifying itself with patriotic Nigerians committed to eliminating corruption from our national life, has proceeded in a manner contrary to popular expectation and in disregard for the age-old principles of honour, ethics and integrity. As publicly displayed during the televised hearing, members of the committee seemed to have taken it upon themselves to serve as advocates for the government officials accused of squandering pension funds over the years.

Therefore, rather than objectively and thoroughly  scrutinizing every detail presented before them, members of the committee have been antagonizing members of the Task Team and providing cover for the people that were obviously found deep in the pension fund scam.

Again, in sheer disregard for transparency, the committee is currently mooting the idea of a closed door session in its investigations. We see this as an attempt at cover up; to deny Nigerians the right to fully know what is happening as well as an opportunity to muscle the course of the hearing to the interest of the committee. Similarly, the Committee has continued to invite some of the accused persons to its hearing for image laundering, contrary to the dictates of the rule of law. We feel that since those persons are already being dragged before a competent court of law, the committee should let them face the charges against them and stop fraternizing with them to the detriment of the sanctity of legislative responsibility.

CISLAC, CDD and ZCC perceive strongly, the unhealthy relationship between members of the senate committee and some of the officials alleged to have fed fat on the pensioners’ entitlements. We strongly suspect as alleged by some media reports that money may have changed hands or else how can the seemingly funny attitude of the committee be explained. There are also allegations that some key members of the committee were  seen in a car alongside some of the accused persons.

Moreover, the co-chair of the committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, is reported to be a cousin to one of the accused officials. This ordinarily, should automatically disqualify the person of Senator Gaya from his position on the committee as he is an interested party and with a clear conflict of interest.

While CISLAC, CDD and ZCC prefer to leave the veracity of these allegations  making the rounds to relevant agencies to investigate and also respect the rights of those accused of the fraud to be presumed innocent until convicted by a court of law which process is in progress, we re-affirm our conviction that the conduct of the Senators on the Committee falls short of acceptable behaviour in a civilized society considering the sacred trust that the electorate repose in them.

In view of the foregoing, we strongly call on the Senate President David Mark to swiftly move  into action to redeem the integrity of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly which has been badly battered by the activity of the Pension Reform committee.

The Senate should as a matter of national interest, dissolve the committee and replace the members with more honourable and impartial senators. It is high time that a spade is called a spade wherever it is seen. The National Assembly should be a tool of smoking out corruption instead of covering it up.

CISLAC, CDD and ZCC wish to encourage the House of Representatives to be open and transparent in its planned investigation into this scam that has snowballed into a huge embarrassment for the nation. The House should be thorough and employ its legislative powers in getting to the root of the matter to ensure that culprits are made to face the full wrath of the law.

We call on the EFCC to ensure diligent prosecution of the cases instituted on account of the work of the Task Team. CISLAC, CDD and ZCC enjoin the judiciary to expedite action

on the cases brought before it on this matter and ensure that justice is not only done but  seen to have been done.

This is the least we all can do to demonstrate that the betrayal of pensioners who have suffered or even died because of the atrocities committed by a few, is not the product of a national conspiracy.

 

Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)

Executive Director,CISLAC

Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim

Executive Director,

CDD

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