Maina accuses Head of Service, Isa Sali, of seizing on his woes to loot pension funds

Mr. Maina alleges that a new vista of pension looting has been opened by his recent travails

The embattled head of the presidential team on pension reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, declared wanted over N195 billion pension fraud, has accused the Head of Service of the federation, Isa Sali of seizing on his troubles to pursue even broader scale of pension looting.

Mr. Maina said he had “verifiable” evidence the federal pension scheme was returning to “the looting era” which his team set out to end, with an alleged 98 percent of pensioners denied their benefits since November, 2012.

He said the process of preparing for payments, had been “desperately hijacked” by Mr. Sali, whom he accused of refusing to sign documents completed by his team, the Pension Reform Task Team, since November.

“It is surprising to note that when the Pension Team concluded paper-work preparation for the payment of November, 2012 monthly pension, as usual, the PRTT sent it to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bello Isa Sali, who usually approves the payment without delay; but could not attend to it, and with no official communication to date,” Mr. Maina said in a statement.

“As soon as the current Senate issues erupted,” he added, “the Pension Team wonders why Alhaji Sali facilitated the hijacking of the payment which would ruin the Federal Government pension transformation agenda.”

Mr. Maina is accused by the Senate of leading one of the most brazen and sophisticated theft in Nigeria’s history, involving nearly N200 billion of retirees’ benefits. The allegation is even more intriguing as his team, the PRTT, was set up to reform an already terribly corrupt sector.

A select Senate committee has spent nearly a year on the investigations, with shocking revelations involving how Mr. Maina lodged huge sums into accounts owned by relatives, and how he introduced fake names of beneficiaries after weeding the ones he met.

Mr. Maina has denied the allegations, and for months, has been embroiled in accusations and counter accusations with the senate, turning down its summons. The controversy peaked a fortnight ago after the Senate urged President Goodluck Jonathan to fire the pension boss, and order his prosecution.

Police have declared Mr. Maina wanted.

After demurring briefly, Mr. Jonathan directed the Head of Service, Mr. Sali, to discipline the reform team chairman, Mr. Maina, who originally served as an Assistant Director in the civil service.

No sanctions have yet been announced.

In a rambling statement signed by the Reform Team’s media consultant, Olajide Fashikun, on Sunday, Mr. Maina said in the past three months, his team had been stripped of supervisory powers over pension matters.

“The unfortunate consequences of these actions are that Nigeria pensioners’ funds are being stolen through a remittal alert where a pensioner received bank alert whereas he is credited with nothing in his bank account, more than 90% of these pensioners are out rightly denied pensions, while about 2% of them are paid only 10% of their entitled pensions,” he said.

“With the current distraction of the Senate, the pension fraudulent activities have not only resurfaced, but it is bigger, bolder and more widespread and likely to be worse than those who are standing trial. Consequently, a whole new vista of pension looting era is back since November 2012,” he added.

The Head of Service could not be reached for immediate comments on the allegation.

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