Zero Corruption Coalition speaks on the Senate Committee Probe of Pension Funds



The Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), a coalition of civil society organizations working to promote transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption in Nigeria, has been following closely the growing incidents of corruption in the country reported in the mass media, daily. Among these are: The KPMG report on the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audit report exposing corruption in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, the alarming revelations in the probe of the oil subsidy regime by an Ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, the case of corruption and money laundering trial against ex-Delta State Governor James Ibori in the UK for which he has reportedly pleaded guilty despite the acquittal granted him by a Nigerian court and the alleged Pension Fund Management Scam which the Nigeria Senate is currently probing.

The current probe of the Pension Fund management by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration has thrown up mixed issues as well as allegations and counter-allegations against the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), the Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the pension managers.

Of note is the report of the Pension Reform Task Team that it has saved Nigeria N159 billion, out of which N74 billion was ploughed into the 2012 budget; a position that was affirmed by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the former Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Mr. Steve Oronsaye.  This, it was able to do through:

  • The biometric exercise that weeded out over 71,000 ghost workers and brought on board 44,000 pensioners, some of whom retired from service since 1968, but have never collected their pensions.
  • The stopping of illegal deduction of N200 (Two Hundred Naira) from every pensioner (on monthly basis), contrary to the provision of Section 173 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • that: “Pensions in respect of service in the public service of the Federation shall not be taxed.
  • The blocking of N4.25 billion stolen on monthly basis by public officials.

 

The foregoing achievements of the PRTT notwithstanding, there are currently allegations of impropriety being leveled against it by some officials of the Nigeria Police over the reform of the Police Pension. This, unfortunately, appears to have taken the centre stage in the on-going Senate Committee probe, precipitating the call for the disbandment of the PRTT and the likely reversal of the gains it has made, which by implication portend a return to the era characterized by falsification, diversion, waton looting and non-payment of pension to pensioners. The accusations are:

  • The illegal opening of bank accounts by the PRTT without the supervisory authority of the Accountant General of the Federation
  • The procurement of biometric machines worth N12.5million without following the due process.
  • The case of extra-budgetary spending of N480million without due appropriation
  • The allegation that N240million was spent to conduct biometric exercise overseas and N220million for local biodata.

While Zero Corruption Coalition as an umbrella body committed transparency and accountability does not, and will not, subscribe to acts of illegality and abuse of office and due process, we are, as a group, of the opinion that the issues of pension reforms and whatever infractions that may have been committed by the PRTT should not be lumped together and used to push to the back-burner the fundamental issues of large scale corruption that has been uncovered in the management of pension fund.

So far, it appears the Senate Committee, by its actions and conduct is restricting its investigation into the allegations of infractions leveled against the PRTT, rather than deal broadly with the serious substantive issues of criminal looting of the pension fund which has led to the death of countless pensioners, denial of benefits for civil servants and their families and exacerbated corruption among active civil servants.

The ZCC is of the strong view that the alleged infractions against the PRTT should be isolated and thoroughly investigated by a law enforcement agency. It should also be treated on its merits without undermining the work that has been done and the fundamental advances that the PRTT has made on the pension fund management.

Therefore, the ZCC demands as follows:

1.   That the Senate Committee focuses on the findings of rot, corruption and criminality that have been uncovered in the course of the PRTT’s work.

2.   That the Senate Committee should, as a matter of national priority and urgency, ensure that all those indicted in the mismanagement and looting of the pension fund are publicly disclosed and referred to the appropriate agencies for prosecution.

3.   That the progress made in the ongoing reform be sustained and not reversed under the guise of addressing the alleged infractions of the PRTT.

4.   That the Senate Committee compiles and forwards to the appropriate agencies all the allegations against the PRTT for investigation and prosecution, upon a prima facie case being established against them.

5.   That the House of Representatives is hereby commended on its patriotic stand against the call for disbandment of the PRTT. The ZCC calls on the Senate to toe the same line.

6.   That the PRTT should be disbanded after the current pension system has developed internal control measures and a dedicated team appointed within the Head of Service to manage the funds in collaboration with an oversight team from the anti-corruption agencies.

7.   That the ZCC calls on Mr. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to demonstrate his support for the fight against corruption by giving the necessary support to the establishment of an independent Pension Funds monitoring team as recommended under paragraph 6 above.

Signed:

Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)             Babatunde Oluajo

Chairman, Steering Committee                       National Secretary

Being the Text Of A Civil Society Statement On The Growing Incidence Of Corruption And The Senate Committee Probe Of Pension Fund Management In Nigeria  (Monday, 12 February, 2012)

 

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