From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
A serving federal permanent secretary (names withheld) has been arrested over a N18 billion scam uncovered in the police pension scheme with N2 billion cash found in his residence.
The matter has been handed over for prosecution to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The permanent secretary was a director in a federal ministry from where he was seconded to one of the newly-created ministries.
Two other accomplices, who are also a serving director (names withheld) in two federal ministries but who had earlier worked with the Police Pension Fund office, have also been arrested and handed over to the EFCC and ICPC for more investigation. EFCC’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the report, saying that apart from the permanent secretary, there are four other top civil servants involved.
Sources in the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) told Daily Sun that investigation showed that “there is a syndicate which operates in the ministry. A cheque of N300 million was used to clear money from an account which is being kept for that sole purpose.
“The permanent secretary and his accomplices have been handed over to the EFCC and ICPC but investigations are still ongoing. On conclusion, we expect ICPC and EFCC to take the matter to court…”
EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, had earlier confirmed the investigation at a parley with newsmen last week.
Meanwhile, indications emerged at the weekend that PRTT Chairman, AbdulRasheed Maina, has rejected fraud allegations leveled against his team by Assistant Chief Accountant in the Police Pension Office, Mr. Toyin Ishola.
Ishola had earlier testified before the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service and States and Local Government Administration investigating pension management and administration.
He told the committee that Maina allegedly distorted the existing Police Pension Account by transferring N21 billion into three different accounts domiciled in three different banks.
The Joint Committee Chairman, Senator Aloysius Etok, and his co-Chairman, Senator Kabiru Gaya, thereafter issued a warrant of arrest against Maina.
The warrant, which was dated March 8, 2012, pursuant to Section 89 of the 1999 Constitution.
But in a 50-page written submission to the committee, Maina insisted that the PRTT has so far saved and recovered N151.6 billion and £6 million for the country from 2010 to date, out of which N74 billion was appropriated as part of the N4.877 trillion 2012 budget.
Another N24 billion was reportedly earmarked as contingency for harmonization of arrears particularly with police, where officers in the cadre of AIGs/Commissioners of Police are paid monthly pensions between N84, 000 and N101, 000.
The documents showed that the two accounts in two different banks were opened with the authorization from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation vide an August 9, 2011 letter. The new mandate showed that Yakubu Kolawole Adeyemi, Edwin Ementa Nwokoye are the new signatories as at September 5, 2011, replacing Ishola and one Mike Okoro.
Furthermore, the PRTT noted that it discovered that there were illegal “withdrawals by staff of the Police Pension Office, using multiple cheques in fictitions names in excess of 30 cheques per day to withdraw cash from their bankers.
“Such illegal withdrawals amounted to N14 billion. The PRTT, assisted by the law enforcement agencies, have made substantial recovery of the said stolen monies. A staff of the Police Pension Office (names withheld) turned in N1billion cash.
“Another surrendered three luxury estates with about 27 blocks of deluxe flats he built in Abuja and many others…”
Maina equally indicated in the documents submitted to the committee that while he is from Biu in Borno State, Danjuma Zubairu is from Kabba in Kogi State; in a direct response to allegations that the account in a bank in the Central Business District branch, was domiciled in the account of his younger brother.
Zubairu, Maina maintained, is the Group Head, Private Banking, Abuja region of the bank. Repeated calls and text messages to Etok and Gaya were unanswered.
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