By Henry Umoru, Inalegwu Shaibu& Chris Ochayi
ABUJA — The Senate, yesterday, challenged the Pension Reform Taskforce Team to name the Senators that took N8.4 billion bribe from the team to influence the outcome of the ongoing probe of pension funds.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Pension Reform Task Force Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, yesterday, disclosed that the team had so far confiscated cash and property worth about N183 billion from top officials involved in the administration of the pension scheme in the civil service and Police Pension Office.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who made the challenge in Abuja refuted the bribery allegations levelled at the Senate by the Taskforce Team.
Abaribe, in statement, accused the team of attempting to blackmail the Senate with the allegations of bribery.
The statement reads: “The allegation that members of the Senate and House of Representatives were bribed to influence the outcome of the ongoing probe of the management of pension funds in Nigeria is a pack of lies with no iota of truth with regards to the 7th Senate.
We suspect that the individual that made the allegation deployed the unfortunate tactics as a desperate ploy to blackmail and hoodwink the Nigerian public as an odious cover in the light of the sad revelations made in the course of the hearing, even when no reports have been turned in.
“The Senate, therefore, challenged this individual to be courageous enough to name those he bribed. He should be bold to mention their names to the public as doing so would help to bring probity in our public lives.
People, especially those handling positions of public thrust, should be ready at all times to render honest account of their stewardship when called upon to do so before the relevant institutions and not try to divert attention by making unfounded allegations.”
Allegations by Etok
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Joint Committee Establishment, State and Local Government probing the widespread frauds in the pension funds, Senator Aloysius Etok, had accused the Taskforce team led by Abdulrasheed Maina of approaching Senators with huge sum of money as bribe.
Etok, however, said the committee rejected the money, and vowed that the committee would continue with the probe of the wide spread fraud in the pension funds undeterred.
He said: “The Taskforce team had some big people to bribe the Senate committee to soft pedal. The taskforce team had sent some big people to offer us bribe and we refused because we are not ready to compromise our work.”
Etok also accused the Taskforce Team of resorting to blackmail after failing with the bribe attempt.
He said: “We cannot be intimidated and we see the media war orchestrated by the taskforce as a blackmail and attempt to distract the committee. Let the Taskforce make public any form of bias by the committee.
“The media is the watch dog of our assignment, we have not shown any sign of bias, we work according to our conscience, and these boys in the Taskforce have resorted to blackmail because we have refused to be compromised. Nigerians would judge us at the end of the day.”
PENCOM Taskforce team recovery hits N182bn
Maina, who made the disclosure while speaking with journalists in Abuja, explained that the team had made impressive achievements with the recent recovery of about N31 billion, aside from earlier N151 billion recoveries.
The Taskforce Team comprises operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC; Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation; Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and State Security Service, SSS.
Maina said: “The team is committed more than ever before to cleanse the corruption in the pension system, which has been there for over 40 years. We have saved over N152 billion for the country. We have made more recoveries very recently.
“You can see those indicted trying to hide their faces from cameras during their arraignment in court. The present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has delivered in the area of pension administration in the country. We are going to achieve more results.”
Asking Nigerians to discountenance the rumoured disbandmentof the Task Team, Maina said the team was not about individuals but an institution.
He said: “We are working for the Federal Government and Mr. President has delivered on pension management in the country. He is yet to wind up the team.”
He added that because of the transparent and credible manner the team was carrying out its assignments, other agencies were now inviting it to clean up their system.
Maina further disclosed that the team had cracked down on a cartel which indulged in extorting money from pensioners by impersonating the members of the Task Team, noting that it had arrested three suspects with details of their illicit transactions.
He appealed to pensioners not to offer anybody money and urged them not to avoid sending money to anybody.
Maina asked pensioners to deal directly with his office or pension offices spread across the states if they encounter any difficulties.