The House of Representatives recently set up a probe panel to look into the books of the National Pension Commission (PenCom). It named Johnson Agbonayinma as the chairman of the ad-hoc committee. But while the probe was going on, the committee chairman was accused of bias.
However, in interview granted by the committee chairman last Thursday and monitored on Raypower Radio’s Political Platform, a political/current affairs programme, Agbonayinma gave an insight into why they are after him.
PenCom said you are an interested party in the probe of the agency by the National Assembly. They said the Commission fired your daughter for possessing a forged certificate, therefore, you are not in a position to head that probe again. Is that correct?
It is unfortunate that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back at you. From inception, right from the time the ad hoc committee was constituted by the House of Representatives, in the Speaker’s wisdom, he appointed me as the chairman of the ad- hoc committee to investigate PenCom. We started this probe far back in December. As a matter of fact, we have written several letters to PenCom, for them to submit documents relating to our investigation. My Committee members have been steadfast and resolute, making sure we do justice by giving them (PenCom) fair hearing.
Behold, we did everything humanly possible. Unfortunately, when we started this investigation, from the first day, people have been trying to stop this investigation. I don’t know why. And, even a motion was moved at the floor of the House to rescind the resolution already passed to investigate PenCom.
The irony of it is this, the submission by PenCom, we went through it, but unfortunately, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also submitted documents along with Accountant General’s Office. When we invited them to the first public hearing, all the media were there when the Acting DG of PenCom (Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar) specifically stated that they only have one account with the Central Bank. But the Central Bank came and told us they (PenCom) have more than five accounts with them. All the submissions made to us, we questioned them, based on their submissions.
They (PenCom), faulted the Accountant General’ Office, we invited the Accountant-General’s Office to tell us their own position. And right there, the Accountant-General’s Office said they had nothing to do with it; that the bone of contention is for PenCom; that the question should be directed at PenCom; that they should not be dragged into it. So, we are just looking for ways to do the proper investigation, not to witch-hunt anyone.
My daughter was sacked in February (2019), that is, after we had started the investigation. So, if they are saying because of my interest that is why I am investigating them, it should be the other way because in the course of my investigating them, I don’t know what happened to my daughter. My daughter never told me anything. I was never privileged to that until when she was sacked. As a matter of fact, my daughter is an adult, married, over 30 years of age. So, she should be responsible for her actions. I won’t condone that.
So, are you going to step down from your headship of that Committee as demanded by the Pension Commission?
As you have seen, the investigation is still ongoing, it will not be fair to the House to start going into more details on how we are going about it. But whether I step down or not, the investigation will still go on. But it is also in the public domain that they wrote a letter to the Speaker saying that I should step aside; that they are not going to get a fair hearing. But fair enough, I was not the one that said they have one account (with the CBN) whereas the Central Bank said they have over five operating accounts. The problem is that we questioned them. They gave an instruction to withdraw N33 billion from Central Bank. So, it is for them to tell us where the money is. Was the money disbursed to PFAs or the Custodians? Tell us how this money was authorised, how it was expended or disbursed?
Before now, there have been attempts on the House of Representatives to stop you from heading this Committee. Do you think there are some concerted efforts from some interests to prevent you from heading the committee?
Very, very, well. Of course, you should know that. Without fear or favour, I must say that I am very disappointed at one of our colleagues, Wole Oke, who is now working for the interest of PenCom. He brought this same acting DG to my office. I told them, ‘madam, I am not witch-hunting you. Submit what we are requesting for.’ But to go public, just to portray me in bad light, to discredit my person, that is very sad. PenCom must try to tell us what happened to the N33 billion of pensioner’s money. Nigerians must know what happened to their money. They deserve to know.