The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has demanded a comprehensive investigation into allegations of looted pension funds to the tune of N200 billion by several individuals and organisations.
In a petition addressed to the office of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and supported with documents, the chairman of the coalition, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, urged the anti-graft agency to probe new findings of alleged criminal conversions and embezzlement of pensions of innocent pensioners by civil servants in active collusion with government officials and pension underwriters.
The petition reads: “We have received an evidence-based detailed petition from a concerned and involved Staff of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) on how pension funds were looted and pensioners left to suffer in abject poverty over the years by several certain individuals and organisations.
“Your commission currently is prosecuting some of the old officers and on the manhunt for Maina, of the infamous Pension Reform Task Team but obviously unaware of the entrenched criminal conversions and embezzlement of pensions of innocent pensioners by civil servants in active collusion with government officials and pension underwriters.
PTAD was established in August 2013, in line with the pension Reform Act 2004 (as amended in 2014) to consolidate the pensions and provide better management of the funds.
“According to our source, attempts by PTAD to dig in and expose the fraud around the pension funds were met with stiff resistance entrenched interests and influential personalities involved in the criminal act. These beneficiaries are allegedly influential and very powerful, feasting on missing or “trapped” pension funds, running into hundreds of billions of Naira.”
While stating that alleged efforts by PTAD to right past wrongs and mop up all hidden pension funds for the government utilisation in the settlement of outstanding pension arrears, allegedly met with threats and victimisation, the coalition said in the past 10 years over N187 billion, believed to be surplus funds with insurance companies were not reported to government and there were no evidence of otherwise utilisation.
Examples of pension funds allegedly being misappropriated and embezzled, with attached evidence are:
“These surplus fund with insurance companies are estimated over time to be in the region of: N 8,387,737,398.80 billion in one year; N91,938,686,994.00 billion in five years and
N183,877,373,988.00 billion over the last 10 years.
“This massive surplus is said not to be reported to government and no evidence of otherwise utilisation. This amount is significant in any economy. The Nigerian government must recoup the funds from insurance companies concerned and prosecute the looters and their collaborators.”
Speaking on how the take-over of parastatal pension by PTAD was alleged frustrated, the CSNAC said it gathered that, “A former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. M. N. Awute was alleged to have frustrated the take-over of parastatal pension by PTAD. With the establishment of PTAD in August 2013, the Office of Head of Service via a letter with Ref. No. PEN63903/S105/T/1/68 and dated 30th October, 2013 intimated all agencies, ministries and parastals of PTAD’s taking over of all Pension Boards.
“Curiously, one year after, in violation of the directive of the Head of Service, Mr. Awute wrote the Director General of PTAD vide letter with ref. No. SMH.494/S,9/C.5/XI/T/139 dated 1st August 2014, demanding further postponement of PTAD take over till December 2015. PTAD refused the request and the federal government was eventually saved N7.6 billion over the. Find copies of the letters attached.”
Raising the alarm that over N20 billion missing pension fund is presently ‘trapped’ with insurance companies, the coalition said, “These are documented funds which insurance companies concerned have refused to return to the Treasury. The breakdown of companies owing the government and the amount involved are as follows:
“NICON Insurance N13 billion; Niger Insurance N931,960,814 million; Custodian Assurance N745,625,580 million; Industrial General Inc. N658,058,759 million; LASACO Life N603,715,186 million; UNIC Insurance Co; N302,802,954 million; AIICO Insurance 190,215,762 million; Crusader Sterling Insurance N113,519,776 million; African Alliance Insurance N47,632,191 million; Goldlink Insurance N33,747,743 million and Bondwell Insurance Co. N29,166,669 million.
“These are funds that the insurance companies collected from the government and failed to neither pass on to pensioners nor returned to government.”
Picking on irregularities on pension fund in the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), the coalition said, the NRC is alleged to have surreptitiously retained N2.5 billion pension payment while claiming the said amount has been returned to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
“The total amount owed and returned to the OAGF was N3.6 billion but in a shady and dirty deal, the OAGF returned N2.5 billion of it to the management of the NRC, remitting only about N1.1 billion to PTAD. The NRC pensioners union and Nigerian Union of Pensioners have petitioned the National Assembly and PTAD to assist in recovering the fund. The two bodies involved (the OAGF and the NUP Railway) have consistently engaged in bulk passing with regards to the refund of the outstanding N2.5 billion.”
Also, CSNAC gathered that the now defunct Pension Boards of Trustee (PBoTs) are alleged to be withholding over N1 billion of pension balances. “For instance, The PBoT of Kaduna Polytechnic is reported to be in possession of about N1 billion, and other PBoT have significant funds stashed away in unknown commercial banks,” it said.
On anomalies bordering on overpayments and ghost pensioners, the anti-corruption group said, “PTAD had generated a list of civil servants who deliberately overpaid themselves. Former directors and other staff of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service are said to have fraudulently inflated their pensions and also inserted bogus and fictitious names in the civil service pension payroll.
“For example, pensioners on less than N20,000 monthly pension allegedly helped themselves to N330,000 monthly. They overpaid themselves and their friends by over N300,000 (three hundred thousand) each month. PTAD has a list of over 100 of these people. This list consumes about N230,362,000.00 (million) annually. Over the last five years, the amount is estimated at N1,151,810,000.00 (billion), and in ten years N2,303,620,000.00 (billion).”
The coalition stated further in its petition that, “Investigation should be launched to unravel the N2.7 billion released to the Office of the Accountant General for the payment of pension arrears to Next of Kins (NoKs) in the parastatal sector. The allegations involving the fund are:
“The OAGF allegedly went against the law and over PTAD to demand for the release of this pension funds from former Minister of Finance.
“The Minister of Finance and (Budget Office of the Federation) BOF allegedly released this pension funds to OAGF when the law designated PTAD as the statutory body charged with payment of pensions.
“The OAGF allegedly ignored PENCOM’s intervention to transfer the funds into a PTAD pension account in CBN and illegally kept the fund for almost a year. The OAGF allegedly making direct payment to 1,700 NoKs while PTAD could only transparently validate a list of 900 and only N1.5 billion as against the N2.7 billion claimed by the OAGF office.
“This payment must be investigated and closely monitored to ensure only genuine NoKs are paid and that N1.2 billion of the N2.7 billion remains in government coffer.”
The coalition also highlighted pension assets with some government agencies which is a contravention of the PTAD law.
“The Bureau for Public Enterprise, Ministry of Power, BPSR and OAGF all operated special payments to pensioners for several years, in contravention of the PTAD law. Huge funds are involved in power sector pension payment, Next of Kins payment etc.”
CSNAC is therefore by this petition requesting the Commission to invoke its powers under Section 6(h) of the EFCC Act: The Commission shall be responsible for –
“The examination and investigation of all reported cases of economic and Financial Crimes with a view to identifying individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved.”
“And launch a comprehensive investigation into allegations contained in this petition and ensure the recovery of over N200,000,000,000 (Two hundred billion Naira) allegedly withheld in separate accounts, companies and individual pockets,” the petition said.
Source: News Express.