BY OKEY NDIRIBE
ABUJA — Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC has approved suspension of the five civil servants who were recently charged to court in connection with their alleged involvement in fraudulent practices at the Police Pensions Office with effect from March 29, 2012.
This was contained in a statement, yesterday, in Abuja by Tope Ajakaiye, Deputy Director Press and Public Relations at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
Those affected civil servants include Atiku Abubakar Kigo (a Permanent Secretary), Ahmed Inuwa Wada (Director), John Yakubu Yusuf (Assistant Director), Veronica Onyegbula (Cashier) and Sani Habila Zira (ICT Officer).
It would be recalled that in their initial arraignment last month, an Abuja High Court remanded all the accused persons in prison custody for their alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of N32.8bn from the Nigeria Police Pensions funds.
The shocking revelations were made at a public hearing conducted by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service, Establishment and State and Local Government Administration probing alleged corruption in the management of the pension funds.
It was alleged that the suspects had stolen N24 billion of the police pension fund through falsified documents. They were also alleged to have withdrawn the said amount from the Budget Office for a pension payment that required just N3.5 billion. It was also revealed that whereas N5 billion was paid to the Office of the Head of Service monthly for the payment of pensions, only N1.9 billion was actually required.
Another disclosure was that while 141,790 pensioners were registered and listed on the government’s payroll, only 70,657 were genuine pensioners.
Another scandalous revelation was that whereas the Police Pensions Office collected N5 billion monthly as claims for its pensioners, it actually needed N500 million. Illegal withdrawals were made by staff using multiple cheques in fictitious names in excess of 30 cheques per day to withdraw cash from their bankers amounting to over N14 billion.
Some of the looted funds have already been recovered. An employee of the Police Pension Office reportedly turned in N1 billion cash while another surrendered three luxury estates which consist of about 27 blocks of deluxe flats he built in Abuja. N2 billion cash was recovered from a house belonging to a suspect, while hotels and fuel stations belonging to other suspects have been confiscated by law enforcement agencies.
There was also another twist to the scandal as fresh allegations were made against the leader of the Pension Reforms Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, who investigated the scam. He was accused of spending N240 million on a biometric exercise for less than 20 retirees in the Diaspora and another N220 million on the local bio-data.
The investigator was also alleged to have unilaterally opened three accounts in different banks without recourse to extant financial rules and approval from relevant authorities. One of the accounts was domiciled in the account of his younger brother with a huge monthly interest of over N100 million.
In his defence, Maina claimed that the money was spent on allowances for foreign trips by 85 officials engaged for the exercise, including top civil servants, top police officers and those of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The national embarrassment did not stop there as the chairman of the committee probing the pension sector, Senator Aloysius Etok, and his members are also busy defending themselves on an allegation that they demanded huge bribes from the same pension task team.