The Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) was headed by Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina as chairman. It was on a mission to save the pension schemes, including the most troubled Police Pension Fund. And five years ago, the famous auditing firm, KPMG, contracted to do a forensic audit of the Police Pension Funds, discovered that the PRTT dipped hands into the funds. It stated that the task force mismanaged hundreds of millions and illegally moved billions between banks. It showed that the chairman defrauded the Police Pension Fund of N21 billion.
The PRTT was shown to have used the names of top government functionaries to siphon about N140 million under the guise of travel expenses to take biometric data of police pensioners outside the country. On March 8, 2012, Deputy Commissioner of Police Toyin Ishola, the assistant chief accountant Police Pensions. told a Senate Committee on Establishments that Maina committed many fraudulent acts in the three months he spent in the Police Pension Fund. Within the period the chairman used N240 million to capture the biometric data of20 retirees. He said Maina opened three bank accounts within three months. There was N8 billion in Fidelity Bank, N3 billion in United Bank for Africa and N10 billion in the First Bank, Maitama.
The account in Fidelity Bank was domiciled in the name of the younger brother of the Chairman, Danjuma Zubairu. “We went to him to change the signatories to the account four times, he refused, and said unless Maina approves the change of signatory first. The said amount was fixed since then with monthly interest of N100 million. He has expended over N3 billion within the period with no proper records at the Police Pension Office.
DCP Ishola said the fraud was so open officials from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission partook in it.” He, however, added that an official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declined receiving N4.8 million kickback deposited in his account by the chairman. The EFCC official said over his dead body for him to touch blood money. He returned the N4.8 million deposited in his account and this is the document to prove the return,” he said.
Following these revelations the chairman of the Senate Committee then issued a warrant of arrest for Maina and lauded DCP Ishola who was told “God bless you. Nigeria needs people like you. Thank you for your bravery and courage.” The Senate then began its investigations into the pension scams.
The Pension Reform Task Force was eventually dissolved by the Head of Service of the Federation Alhaji I.B. Sali in February 2013, a development confirmed by the Deputy Director (Information and Public Relations) HoS, Mr. Tope Ajakaiye who disclosed that the memo for the dissolution was signed byh the Permanent Secretary, Establishment and Records Office, HoS, Mrs. Folashade Yemi-Esan. The memo directed all members of staff of the Task force to report back to their respective ministries, departments and agencies. This followed a directive by the Presidency to dissolve the Task Force.
But two months later, the Office of the Head of Service was besieged by hundreds of protesters calling on the Federal Government to reinstate Maina without further delay. They comprised civil society groups, market women and youth organizations who disrupted vehicular movement in the area. The agitation for Maina’s reinstatement became imperative following the unwillingness of the office of the head of service to return him as the PRTT chairman despite the ruling of Justice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court, Abuja directing that he should not be arrested.
The Executive Secretary of the Legislative Watch, a non-governmental organization, Mr. Ngozika Ihuoma, who led the protesters, said their action was to draw public attention to the injustice meted to Maina. The civil society has decided to draw attention to the fact that since November 2012 when the former Head of Service allegedly usurped the payment of pension of federal retirees, the processes have become “unwieldly with backlog of pensions…The Federal High Court in Abuja on March 27, 2013 not only vacated the arrest warrant issued by the Senate against Maina but also directed that he be returned to continue his duties at the PRTT.”
They urged the Head of Service to fast track Maina’s return to office based on the court ruling. “We cannot continue to claim to observe the rule of law but fail to obey court rulings on very fundamental issues such as this.”
The Senate Committee returned a guilty verdict on Maina, the PRTT and the administration of pension funds. Among other observations, it stated that “there is syndicated and institutionalized corruption, fraud and embezzlement in the administration of the payment of pensioners and administration of pension funds.”
However, Maina’s defenders rose up in arms against the Senate committee, accusing it of corruption and bias. In a detailed critique of the Senate report published by the PremiumTimes, Sani Shuaibu Teidi, former director of pensions in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, who is being prosecuted along with 31 others, alleged that Mr. Aloysius Etok, the Senate Committee Chairman and other members of the committee collected a bribe of N3 billion from him. In statements to the EFCC Teidi said he paid the money to Mr. Etok in foreign currency and that the bribe was meant to prevent their prosecution. He told investigators that he equally bribed Farida Waziri, a former EFCC chairman. The Senate was silent on the allegation. When the allegations became public property, the deputy Senate President Dr. Ike Ekweremadu set up a committee to look into them with a mandate to report its findings within two weeks. Nothing has been heard about the committee since then.
To make matters worse, Maina himself alleged that Mr. Etok demanded from him a bribe of $100,000 dollars for each of the 18 members of the committee. He eventually declined to give the bribe on the advice of a security chief who alerted him that once he gave the bribe, he would be subsequently blackmailed into giving heavier bribes.”
Two days ago, Maina’s family came to the defence of their son. In a widely circulated press statement, Aliyu Maina said “it is on record that Abdulrasheed Maina’s reform put to stop the fraudulent withdrawals of huge sums from both the Nigerian Pension Board, the Nigerian Police Pension Board, etc. Perhaps it is his noble efforts that made him enviable to the present administration when they came into power to convince him to come back and assist in its ‘CHANGE’ agenda. Abdulrasheed was in fact invited by this administration and he was promised security to come and clean up the mess and generate more revenue to government by blocking leakages.”
The EFCC was apparently unimpressed as it went ahead to seize six properties belonging to Maina said to be worth billions of Naira.