A former Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, has painted a grim picture of the nation’s pension scheme, describing its administration as a huge scam perpetrated by government officials to siphon billions of public funds annually.
Mr. Oronsaye spoke on Tuesday at the senate public hearing on the management of federal pensions, widely believed to be fraught with corruption, and his remarks appeared to confirm that.
Addressing the lawmakers, he said the scheme involved falsification of documents by government officials, use of ghost names and inflation of benefits-all done to make illicit claims that have cost the nation billions of naira yearly.
“There was a document presented to me on death benefit, the photograph was quite different from the name because I knew the person bearing that name,” he told the senate committee.
“There are many of such forged documents. That was why there was biometric exercise and until we have people of integrity, the problem with the administration of pension fund will still continue,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate has summoned the Minister of Lands and Housing , Ama Pepple, a former Head of Service, to explain the management of the scheme under her tenure.
Annually, billions of federal revenues are allocated to servicing pensions, and many of that amount have ended in feeding ghost claimants, Mr. Oronsaye said.
He said it was discovered when he was in the office that the scam was being carried out at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and “the staff involved, people in that section were disbanded, but have now been reinstated to the office.”
He said: “The quest for selective payment did not arise during my tenure. When I resumed office, the first few files that came on my table were on payment. I was not persuaded by request because it was not in order. If I did that the genuine pensioners will suffer for it, the figure kept coming, I was not satisfied in good conscience.
“We discovered that there were people retired in the 60s that are not paid, there were people who came with fake documents during biometric exercise. Until we purge the system there is nothing we can do.
He also denied the federal government had a statutory duty to contribute five per cent to the pension fund, saying the gesture was only voluntary.
“There is this erroneous impression that federal government will contribute five per cent into pension fund is not correct, it is the responsibility of states and local governments to take care of their pensioners, the federal government just want to be like big father to support, this was just the circular not a law. From the beginning the circular was cleared,” he said.