THE Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, currently facing scrutiny from the Senate for allegedly spearheading the recall of wanted pension fraud suspect, Abdulrasheed Maina, yesterday, raised the alarm that masterminds of the multi-billion pension fraud and their beneficiaries were behind the ferocious media onslaught against him and his office.
Malami told Vanguard that he was convinced that the aim of the attacks was to force him to discontinue the prosecution of the high-profile looters of pension fund to the tune of N14.3 billion.
The minister, who last week appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Service and Establishment, pointed out that unknown to most Nigerians, a highly organised pension fraud syndicate exists in Nigeria and was frontally opposed to any attempt by his office to prosecute them and recover the public loot.
The AGF said: “Let me state, however, that a barrage of organised and coordinated media attacks against the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation can best be appreciated not from exclusive point of reinstatement of Maina but from a larger perspective of pension fraud syndicate and their antics over time to suppress any attempts at associated investigations.
“The fact, however, is indisputable that there exists a pension fund fraud syndicate in Nigeria. The syndicate includes highly placed retired and current political office holders and retired and serving senior civil servants.
“The fraud permeates the following institutions: NITEL pension, NIPOST pension, NEPA pension, Nigeria Railway pension, NPA pension and NNPC pension.
“The Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, as at 2014, usually presented 258,000 persons for payment per month whereas the actual figure was 141,762. The differential is 116,238 ghost pensioners. There are 66 illegal accounts being used in perpetrating pension fraud.
Breakdown of amount stolen and laundered
“The breakdown of the amount established to have been stolen and laundered through the pension scheme and the modus operandi through which the proceeds were stolen and laundered from 2008 to 2013 is as follows: Fictitious contracts N5,761,150,608.44; Ghost pensioners, N829,902,260.40; Collective allowances, N1,365,821,942.91; Payments to States Pension Boards and others, N4,192,825,310; National Union of Pensioners, N2,290,593,322; and Association of Federal Civil Service Retirees, N253,390,300, totalling N14,374,236,846.09.
“Pension fraud was perpetrated by public officials to siphon humongous amounts in conjunction with, and with the active connivance of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, NUP, Director of Pension Accounts, State Pension Boards, and Association of Federal Public Service Retirees, among others. Proceeds of the fraud are usually shared among the members of the syndicate.
“Mr. Maina has been part of this syndicate but things fell apart between him and the syndicate and he left the shores of Nigeria upon alleged threat to his life.
“It may interest Nigerians to know that the Federal Government of Nigeria had from 2008 to 2013 made sizeable recoveries of stolen pension funds. The position of these recoveries needs to be verified.
“What happened to the monies recovered from the syndicate? What about the 270 property, comprising real estate and motor vehicles? This is what the syndicate is labouring hard to cover up using media hype against anyone that has shown interest in lifting the veil.
“In case you are interested in having the breakdown of the recoveries, please find them listed here below: N2,800,000,000, $3,000,000, 3,500 euro, N16,185,131,847.09k through the OHCSF Pension Account No: 0023682604 domiciled with Union Bank Plc and over 270 property and motor vehicles.
Criminal prosecution and compromising undertones
‘’There are 12 criminal charges bordering on variants of financial crimes currently pending at different courts, with an aggregate value of N14.3 billion.
“The on-going cases are being continuously compromised by the powerful syndicate. Senior lawyers were being withdrawn from the prosecution of these cases and very junior lawyers were assigned to handle them.
“The intention was always to slow down the progress of the cases and turn back the hands of the clock both in terms of speed and sustenance of the coordinated memory. Principal actors in the syndicate were left off the hook and never charged while the low profile actors are left to their fate standing trial.”