War creates fronts. Every war front suggests dedicated articulation of well planned strategy to enable the foot soldiers effectively execute the war. Such war takes time, even with diligent focus and discipline, not always is victory assured. Most war fronts are usually laced with booby traps.
What informed my delving into this new war front created by the youthful, articulate and vibrant chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, whose appointment was approved on February 25, 2021, by the Senate, was his public vow to open a war front against pension scammers operating in the country. The war against pension scammers, who wickedly fraustrate pensioners, is a huge task.
So, for Bawa, who took over the mantle of leadership like a war “general,” to decide to fight a unique war not against enemies with sophisticated firearms but those with sophisticated brains that are capable of disrupting the economy through corruption, should be commended.
They are not only sophisticated mentally but also operate a strategic network of financially buoyant members. Therefore, a general like Bawa needs to be emotionally, psychologically, mentally and healthily equipped to fight corruption. Corruption comes in diverse ways and only a well-equipped general can take the war to the doorsteps of economic and financial criminals, thereby ensuring the recovery of looted funds belonging to the country, not a person who grandstands and later complains that corruption is fighting back. Nor should we hear that the commanding general slumped even before heading to the war front. It was heart-warming ,when the news broke that “General” Bawa wanted to open a new war front to battle a very dangerous enemy that over the years had wreaked havoc and further dented the image of the country.
Bawa believes that a new war front can be created despite the handful of war fronts already enveloping his gallant investigators (foot soldiers). After all, his overall master and commander-in-chief promised Nigerians that he would definitely fight corruption of all shades to a standstill. Don’t forget he is a war general, but the man in question is a new war general. Only last week, he was reported to have slumped. Not at the war front due to fatigue and emotional stress. Well, that unfortunate incident notwithstanding, he has tried.
Since his appointment, Bawa has left no one in doubt that he means business. At 41 years, he has exhibited good leadership qualities and is he is yet to complain that corruption is fighting back. The war front he is gathering momentum to vigorously wage is against pension scammers. Did I mention pension scammers? Yes, Pension Scammers. These are people the Holy Book described as locusts in Deuteronomy 28:38…
“Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.”
Pension is a system where a worker is mandated to surrender a percentage of his monthly remuneration to the government who keeps the fund that later in the years ahead increases and, after retirement, is gradually paid back to the pensioner through an administrator. This system has been abused as some of these pension administrators fraudulently milk the system and grew fatter than the pensioners. Pension scammers are levellers
Various methods are used to perpetrate fraud. Like substituting deacesed pensioners’ names with fake names to enable them collect the pension money. Also, the pension list is exaggerated and bloated. Before Bawa’s appointment, the EFCC had already waged a ferocious war against the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
He and his 21 years old son were dragged before an Abuja federal high court by the EFCC alleging that the former pension reform boss used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2 billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja. His son, Faisal, was also found guilty on the three counts of laundering N58.1 million in public funds and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Investigation showed that Maina used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
With the opening of more war fronts against pension scammers, the EFCC chairman told a gathering recently in Abuja that they were still very far from the destination.
“We cannot say exactly how much is lost to pension fraud in financial terms, bearing in mind that most cases are unreported or under- reported, but, at the EFCC, we have investigated and documented hundreds of billions of naira lost to fraud in the pension (system).”
What is more important is to intensify the war against these scammers who deliberately and fraudulently deprive pensioners of their life’s saving. It becomes more tragic when it looks as if only those in the middle and lower echelons of society are more vulnerable, as there is no report of any top class pensioner ever being deprived of their pension rights.
Meanwhile, it is being discussed that the present pension scheme introduced during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration should either be revisited with a view of re-evaluating the scheme so that loopholes are completely blocked or the government should scrap the scheme. It is regarded in some circles as a scheme that has further increased corruption and further attracted shame to the already soiled image of the country.
Reverting to the old order may, after all, be more beneficial, since the operation of the Contributory Pension Scheme, which was supposed to ameliorate the sufferings of pensioners, has, instead, compounded their woes and worsened their problem.
#EndSARS: The whirlwind
Both Nigerian government and the citizenry cannot easily erase from memory the whirlwind that blew from the Atlantic Ocean base in Lagos State across the country. Among government agencies that were deeply affected were the Nigeria Police and some state governments. In all, the police lost over 30 officers, while properties worth billions of naira were destroyed.
The October 2020 whirlwind remains one of the most articulated and nationally coordinated agitations in Nigeria. Lives were lost, properties were wrecked and the peace of many states was disrupted.
Apart from the sheer exhibition of youthful rascality, Nigeria ought to have scribbled down many important lessons that emerged from the agitation. It is observed that wildfire starts little before growing into an inferno.
It is necessary to recall that the nation had suffered greatly, sequel to leaders’ lackadaisical attitude, insensitivity and lack of patriotism, though they are leaders.
Unfortunately, it is glaringly on record that it is the indiscretion and incompetency of police leaders during specific periods of our national history that caused the country to weep and we have lost thousands of citizens as a result.
I am referring to the 2007 build-up to the Boko Haram insurgency and #EndSARS.
(To be continued)