SENATORS DEMANDED N2BN BRIBE -TASK TEAM BOSS
Nigerians may have to wait a little longer to know the depth of rot in the management and administration of pension fund that runs into trillions of naira.
Investigations into how the money was managed ran into troubled waters recently as allegations and counter-claims of a N2 billion bribe may disrupt the exercise in the Senate. Some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are demanding the Senate probe committee be disbanded.
Daily Sun exclusively gathered that the N2 billion bribery allegation is rocking the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service and States and Local Governments and the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT).
Sources on the PRTT told Daily Sun that some members of the joint committee approached the task team and allegedly demanded N2 billion bribe 'to discontinue the probe,' therefore, stalling the PRTT headed by Mr. AbdulRasheed Maina.
Rather than succumb to the demand, the 'team insisted that it had done no wrong to warrant paying such a huge sum of money to the Senate panel.'
Instead, the Maina-led PRTT insisted it should be commended for recovering billions of naira for government as well as exposing those who have siphoned money and ' who continued to siphon public fund into private pockets.'
Piqued about the demand, the PRTT approached the Presidency with the details of the alleged 'insane demand from the Senate.'
Reacting, Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Aloysius Etok, dismissed the allegation.
'There was no demand of any nature; saying that if anybody asked him (Maina) for money, it is sheer blackmail.
'Let Maina face the facts. If he has any proof, let him come out with it,' Etok said.
Meanwhile, Senate spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe, has called for those making the bribery allegation to substantiate their claim by naming those behind the deal.
'The allegation that members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were bribed to influence the outcome of the on-going probe of the management of pension fund in Nigeria is a pack of lies with no iota of truth with regards to the seventh Senate.'We suspect that the individual that made the allegation deployed the unfortunate tactic as a desperate ploy to hoodwink the Nigerian public as an odious cover in the light of the sad revelations made in the course of the hearings even when no report had been turned in.
'The Senate, therefore, challenges this individual to be courageous enough to name those he bribed. He should be bold to mention their names to the public as doing so would help bring probity in our public life,' Senator Abaribe said.
Meanwhile, some NGOs- Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), and Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)- have called for the disbandment of the joint committee.
In a signed statement issued in Abuja, the NGOs expressed shock that the committee has deviated from its mandate, adding that some members have openly acted as advocates for government officials.
'We, CISLAC, CDD and ZCC, were, however, shocked that no sooner than the committee started its work, did signs emerge that the high expectations of Nigerians about its potential to contribute to the war against corruption would not materialize.'Indeed, the manner in which the committee went about its task of investigation left much to be desired. The tendency towards leaving the issues to pursue trivialities became obvious and elements of bias began to manifest, eroding the neutrality and objectivity required of this crucial assignment and calling the integrity of the legislature to question.
'As publicly displayed during the televised hearing, members of the committee seemed to have taken it upon themselves to serve as advocates for the government officials accused of squandering pension fund over the years.
'Therefore, rather than objectively and thoroughly scrutinizing every detail presented before them, members of the committee had been antagonizing members of the task team and providing cover for the people that were obviously found deep in the pension fund scam.'In view of the foregoing, we strongly call on Senate President David Mark to swiftly move into action to redeem the integrity of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly which had been badly battered by the activity of the Pension Reform Committee.'The Senate should as a matter of national interest, dissolve the committee and replace the members with more honourable and impartial Senators,' the NGOs said.
The Etok-led committee has said it would commence public hearing on the pension fund management and administration by inviting seven bank executives to testify on the matter. They are expected to appear before the committee next Monday, April 16. Recall that a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Kigo and five others were last month arraigned before Justice Mohammed Talba of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on N32.8 bilion police pension scam.
Justice Talba had on April 3 granted them bail for N10 million and two sureties each after they spent a few days in prision custody. The accused are to return to court on May 28 and June 4 for commencement of trial.
Last week, the Senate said it uncovered N3 billion in an illegal account over which the seven bank Chief Executive Officers and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, were summoned.