BY ERIC TENIOLA
I am not surprised that the story on the former boss of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Alhaji AbdulRasheed Maina, is still running, after the Premium Times broke the story about his comeback to government about seven weeks ago.
To anyone who knows how the Federal Civil Service works, the story must be strange that someone in Maina’s position as Assistant Director, could have such wide powers and connections and have access to such huge amount of money which is far more than three years capital votes budget of some states in the federation.
Incidentally, three of my friends have featured in the Maina’s saga. Dr Goke Adegoroye whom Maina served in the Ministry of interior as Assistant Director when Dr. Adegoroye served as Permanent Secretary in that ministry.. Dr. Adegoroye handed Maina to Steve Orasanye when he was serving as Head of Service. Steve later handed Maina to another friend, Professor Dapo Afolabi, who took over from him as Head of Service. Thereafter like an oak tree, Maina started to spread his tentacles all around the “powers” that be. Maina is a clever guy. He played everyone he met while in service like a violin and he was two steps ahead of others. He studied the system and exploited it. I don’t know whether the full story of the Maina saga will ever be known. I also don’t know how the story will end.
No fugitive civil servant accused of embezzlement has been celebrated like Maina—in this country-thanks to the military that destroyed the fabric of the Federal Civil Service unlike in the United Kingdom and India where the civil service is the greatest pillar and asset of those nations.
The Maina’s saga was unthinkable in the days of Charles Olatunde Lawson, Ali Akilu, Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo,Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa, N.N. Akpan, Jerome Udoji, Peter Odumosu, Olubunmi Thomas, Sule Katagun, Micheal Ani, Allison Ayida, Phillip Asiodu and others.
Like all mortals, when you overreach your hubris, you are bound to face insurmountable problems and suffer irreversible defeat. No matter how powerful or rich or well-connected or famous or strong one can be, the defeat must come. I don’t know whether or not Maina has faced his waterloo. But he has fewer cards to play to his advantage right now.
But while talking about Maina, there are other pension bodies that are still scandal -free.
Then there is the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), an agency under the Federal Ministry of Finance established in August, 2013 to manage pensions under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) for federal pensioners who retired on or before June 30th 2007 and did not transit to the new Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) which came into effect July 1st 2007. PTDA is regulated by the National Pension Commission (PenCom). The agency was established in line with Section 30 (2) (a) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA), 2004 now PRA, 2014 to consolidate and manage the defunct pension offices of Civil Service Pensions, Police Pensions, Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pensions and Treasury Funded Federal Government Parastatals.
The agency is currently headed by a female lawyer, Sharon Olive Ikeazor, from Anambra State. Her family has had a long history of service. Her brother, Chief Phillips Ikeazor was former Managing Director of Keystone Bank and had earlier served as Executive Director of Union Bank. He is now the Izoma of Obosi. Her grandfather, Chief Eugene Akosa Ikeazor (1907-1975) was a London -trained police officer. He was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Police in 1959 in the old Eastern region. He led the Nigerian Police contingent of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force to the troubled Congo Kinshasa. Her grandmother, Mrs. Eunice Ikeazor was the first mid-wife of Igbo origin and the first daughter of King of Obosi Israel Eloebo Igwe Iweka I. She trained under Dr. Abimbola Awoliyi, Nigeria’s first female doctor. King Eweka was the first Igbo Engineer (educated at Imperial College, London) and first indigenous author of Igbo history.
Her father, Chief Timothy Chimezie Ikeazor, SAN, (1930-2012) from Obosi in Anambra state read law at Kings’ College, University of London. He was the founder of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association, alongside Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN) and Chief Debo Akande, which evolved into a full creature and Statute via the Legal Aid Decree 1977(later the legal Aid Act). Till he died in October 2012, Chief Ikeazor was my friend. On October 18 1979, President Shehu Shagari nominated him along with Chief Daniel Chukwuma Ugwu, a lawyer from Itchi in the old Anambra State to the then Senate, headed by the now ailing Dr. Joseph Wayas, as a minister. Chief Ugwu later served as Minister of Health between 1979 and 1983.
The then governor of Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, prevailed on President Shehu Shagari to drop Chief Ikeazor’s name. That was why he never became a minister.
Sharon Ikeazor was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 26 2016 in succession to Neilie Mayshak, who served as the Director General. Since her assumption of office on October 6 2016, she has tackled issues including prompt payment of monthly pensions, completion of the verification process for the civil service and parastatals, payment of outstanding arrears (including the 33% arrears), digitization of pensioner’s data and records for the creation of a clean DBS database, Automation of the pension payment processes and the use of Government-Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS), introduction of a client focused service orientation that shows care and empathy, automated computation of benefits and tackling pension scammers/fraudsters.
There is also the National Provident Fund (NPF), which metamorphosed into the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSTIF), following the promulgation of the NSTIF Decree No 73 of 1993 by General Ibrahim Babangida. The National Provident Fund was established by the former Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1961.
The Act of the decree mandated all employers of labour in the Organised Private Sector (OPS), with a workforce of not less than five persons to register as members of the scheme and remit monthly contributions. The NSITF was a Defined Benefits Scheme and the initial monthly contribution was 7.5% of basic salary, of 2.5% to be borne by the employee, and 5% by the employer. This was reviewed upwards in 2001 to 10% of gross salary, 3.5% to be borne by the employee and 6.5% by the employer. The Act established the Contributory Pension Scheme for employees in the public and organized private sectors to correct failures of the Defined Benefit Scheme. The present Chief Executive of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund is Mr. Adebayo Somefun. He succeeded Alhaji Umar Munir Abubakar.
The negativity of the Maina saga does not represent the full story of the Pension Scheme in Nigeria.