By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG & OSCARLINE ONWUEMENYI
THE Pension Reform Task Team set up by the Federal government, has uncovered no fewer than 71, 133 ghost pensioners under the government payroll across the country.
Chairman of the Team, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, who announced this, lamented that some faceless individuals had been threatening the lives of members of the team over the assignment given to them and called on security agencies to provide security for them.
Speaking during a visit to the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, the Pension Reform Task Team Chairman disclosed that so far a whooping N151 billion fraud had been uncovered with the assistance of the EFCC in pension offices across the country.
According to Alhaji Maina “of the N151 billion, the task team in conjunction with the EFCC traced and recovered a total of about N24billion and N15 billion worth of property from some corrupt government officials in the Office of the Head of Service Pension Department. Sixty six illegal bank accounts with N180million were also discovered.”
He expressed appreciation to the EFCC for its role in achieving the feat and decried the plight of pensioners before his team was inaugurated in June 2010, noting that such plight was brought about not by paucity of funds “but due to large scale corruption through diversion and mismanagement of pension fund, manipulation and falsification of data, non-improvement in the pension administrative structure, bureaucracy with poor, unreliable and inefficient accounting system.”
He noted that in a bid to check such anomalies, his team had successfully conducted nationwide biometric verification of pensioners and in the process detected 71, 133 fake pensioners.
He sought the EFCC’s assistance in the areas of personnel and security of lives of his team “because we are increasingly getting threats to our lives from some faceless members of the public”.
He also appealed to the EFCC to continuously be on the watch of pension offices across the country to find out if any scam or shadiness was being perpetrated.
Responding, Lamorde expressed the Commission’s appreciation on the robust relationship existing between the two organizations which he stressed should be emulated by other agencies. “We must all join hands to fight this cankerworm called corruption.”
He lauded the task force on some of its initiatives especially the biometric capturing of pensioners.
This, he said, would go a long way in detecting pension fraud across the country.
Lamorde pledged to support the Task Force with manpower even as he welcomed the portal to be dedicated to the Commission in the Task Force’s website, which is aimed at detecting fraudulent transactions.
Reacting to the threat to life of members of the Task Force by those who are affected by their activities, the EFCC helmsman advised the team not to be deterred by any threat to life in the discharge of their duties “because risk element is real in life”.