By NBF News

Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Ayoola (retd), has raised a new committee to look into the controversial pension deductions by the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife.

Workers of the institution through the Joint Executive Committee of Staff Unions (JECOSUN) had petitioned the anti-graft agency, accusing the university management of double deductions of workers' pension from their salary since July 2004.

A committee, earlier raised by the commission to look into the allegation, reported that it discovered over N687 million in three fixed accounts operated by the university and domicile in three commercial banks in Ile-Ife. Although, the committee stated in its report dated May 4, 2010 and signed by Sir Simeon Oguntimehin, that it discovered the movement of funds from Personnel Cost Account (PCA), whose 'amount tallied with the monthly pension deductions already made at source by the Federal Government', it said the money was 'wrongly captured and misleading' as deductions of pensions from staff salary.

The commission labelled the money as unspent budget of the institution and directed that the discovered money should be remitted to the account of the Federal Government through the sub-treasurer of the federation.

But the workers kicked against the directive, insisting that the money belonged to them and should be returned to them without delay. They specifically accused the university administration of 'operating section 9(2) of the Pensions Act (2004) to receive fund from the government but uses section 9(1) to deduct and retain 7.5 per cent of workers' consolidated salaries'.

In a reply (letter) to the ICPC's report, which was exclusively obtained and published by Daily Sun on Friday, June 18, the workers argued that the fraudulent modalities had resulted 'in an equivalent amount as surplus in the PCA' on monthly basis, which was the money discovered by the ICPC. The workers also faulted the claim by ICPC that the vouchers for the movement of the money into fixed accounts were 'wrongly captured and misleading', saying that could not be true of a 'highly qualified accountant in the university bursary.

Describing the ICPC's statement as 'highly mischievous', the workers pointed out that the 'wrongly captured and misleading' vouchers were not prepared once or twice but 'every month'. The workers fumed that the lodged monies in the discovered 'fixed deposit accounts and rolled over for over two years' was not only fraudulent but 'indicative that the university administration is inhuman and insensitive to the welfare of its workers.

'The university administration should be directed to pay the fixed amounts plus the accrued interests to the workers who are the rightful owners of the funds without any delay,' the workers stated. Daily Sun authoritatively learnt at the weekend that the ICPC chairman, upon receiving the workers' reply to the agency's report, was disturbed by the strongly wordings of the workers' response and decided to raise a new committee to look into the report.

A very reliable source at the commission confided in Daily Sun, at the weekend, that the new committee would swing into action probably this week.

'The chairman has raised a new committee to look into the report and the position of the workers. He was not happy that the investigation of his commission would come under questioning. You know, as a thorough person, the chairman is not interested in shoddy job. I can confirm to you that something is being done to look into the objection raised by the workers,' the source stated.

When contacted on the development, Media Consultant to the commission, Mr. Folu Olamiti, acknowledged the receipt of the workers' response, saying that; 'something is being done to look into the workers' objection.'

Daily Sun, however, learnt that the money in contention might have now risen to over N1 billion since the university had continued with its usual deduction regardless of the workers' petition to ICPC in March 2009.