Senators, Reps shared from N8.9bn pension fund -Suspects •Staffers of Auditor-General’s, Accountant General’s offices also mentioned •National Assembly can’t be blackmailed -Senate spokesman
Written by Taiwo Adisa, Abuja with Agency Reports
THE National Assembly committees on pension have been named as part of the beneficiaries of the pension scam that is growing in dimension and revelation, according to the statements written by some of the arrested suspects before the investigators of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A former Director of Police Pension Fund, Chief Esai Dangabar, who is standing trial along with five others for complicity in the N32.8 billion police pension fraud, continued to spill the beans on how several billions of naira meant for retired police officers was shared illegally among top government functionaries, including the National Assembly committees in charge of pension.
In his statement to the EFCC, dated February 14, 2012, Dangabar said part of N8.9 billion withdrawn between January 5, 2009 and December 23, 2009 was used to settle members of the Police Pension committees of the National Assembly to get the police pension fund’s budget passed by the lawmakers.
Dangabar and another suspect in the scam, John Yusuf Yakubu, who was the pension fund’s accountant, also listed as beneficiaries of the fraud certain people in the Auditor-General’s office, the Accountant-General’s office and the National Assembly.
Dangabar’s statement reads in part: “I was shown summary of cheques withdrawal, dated between 5th January 2009 and 23rd December 2009 totalling N8,920,371,822.24.
“The said sums of money mentioned above were used for the payment of police retirees.
“However, some amounts were also used for public relations to members of the Police Pension Committee of the National Assembly.
“The public relations monies were made as condition precedent before the budgets of the office were passed.”
In another statement he made on February 16, 2012, Dangabar also listed beneficiaries of some of the pension fund to include some persons in the offices of the Accountant-General and Auditor-General of the Federation.
“I was shown a copy of Yusuf Yakubu’s statement of February 14, 2012, where he mentioned various beneficiaries to the funds released to police pensions: namely National Assembly, Accountant-General Office, Auditor-General Office, but all through, when I was in office as director, I could not remember anything given to the Force Headquarters,” he said.
Others standing trial with Dangabar were the immediate past permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Niger Delta, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Kigo; Alhaji Ahmed Inuwa Wada; John Yakuku Yusufu; Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Alhaji Habila Zira.
However, Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, on Wednesday, said the National Assembly would not accept any attempt to blackmail in by any of the suspects in the ongoing Pension fund scam.
The senator said in response to claims by one of those undergoing trial in the pension funds scam that part of the embezzled funds were used as public relations to get the police pension budget passed by the National Assembly, it objected to any attempt to drag its name into the mud by anyone.
“The process of passage of the budget of any ministry, department or agency is very well laid out and it does not include sharing money to any member of the Senate or House of Representatives.
“If the claimant is sure of his or her fact, he should come out in the open and tell Nigerians who he had dealings with in the name of the National Assembly,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), headed by Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, has accused the Senate Joint Committee probing the N2 trillion pension funds of bias.
The task team, in a statement on Wednesday, said that the Senate committee was out to paint its work in bad light before Nigerians.
Though the team denied insinuations making the rounds in Abuja that the committee demanded a bribe of N16 million for each of its members, it, however, said the Senate committee treated it “cruelly” and “unfairly” during the public hearing.
According to the task team, the Senate committee was quick to move for the dissolution of the team, even before hearing from its members.
“At the first day of the public hearing which commenced on Tuesday, March 6, in Abuja, the Senate committee announced the suspension of the Pension Reform Task Team, even before it was heard,” the task team said.
The statement, endorsed by Hassan Salisu, Information and Media Relations Officer of the team, said though the task force had suffered fierce attack and sentimental harassment by the Senate committee, it could not substantiate any claim of bribery on the part of the Senate.
“We have documents, newspaper reports and TV clips of such sentimental harassment and the task team views it as a deliberate attempt to tarnish its image and it further buttresses our claim that the distinguished Senator Aloysius-led committee had declared judgment against the task team, even while the probe is ongoing,” the statement read.
But the chairman of the Senate committee probing the pension funds, Senator Aloysius Etuk, in a telephone interview, said the allegations were meant to distract the committee from its onerous task at hand.
Etuk told the Nigerian Tribune that “there is no way we have shown bias to the task force. This is a strategy to distract us from doing our assignment and if there is a way they feel we have shown bias, let them raise it.”