Is the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Pension Fund impartial or just pretending to be?
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently won a major victory as it received an interim order from the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Justice Lawal H. Gumi to take possession of 45 assets of some of the persons who allegedly defrauded the Police Pension Office of N32.8 billion. Coming on the day the new Chief Justice of the Federation, Mrs. Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, was sworn-in, we view the development as a very instructive coincidence, even if not actually intended. We also hope that it would mark a new beginning in the fight against corruption through the courts.
We would therefore urge the anti-graft agency not to relent in its bid to prosecute all those found to have been involved in the looting of the Pension funds while the real beneficiaries languish in abject penury. We view the Abuja court order as a positive indication that treasury looters and their accomplices would no longer find it so easy to enter into “plea-bargain” and go home with just a slap on the wrist. It is such spurious verdicts that had continued to encourage the pillaging of the nation’s treasury.
It is against this background that we have serious reservations about the role of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Pension Fund in the whole saga. The speed at which the committee roundly pronounced the Maina Pension Reform Task Team guilty of mismanaging the recovered pension loots, and called for its disbandment even before it concluded its investigation, raises serious questions as to their impartiality.
Although Senate President David Mark had once spoken strongly against the Pension Fund thieves, even invoking divine punishment on the culprits, his colleagues on the committee could not match that verbal indictment with practical action. Railing against what he called “the accumulation of blood money” Mark had declared that “for any living
human being to have stolen the money of those who have laboured for this country, it is only God who can decide their fate.”
However, before we hand over matters to divine intervention, the laws of the land must first take its course without any attempt at protecting some sacred cows.
Yet while recently expressing his frustrations on how the Senate worked to undermine the efforts of his Task Force, its chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, said they never got any appreciable cooperation from the Upper Chamber, adding: “We are not under any illusion that the struggle to rid the pension funds management of corrupt and fraudulent characters would be a bed of roses. Certainly not, given that the culprits are sitting on billions of stolen pension funds, and are ever prepared to use the huge loot for shielding themselves from prosecution”.
All factors considered, we do not think the lawmakers have acquitted themselves very well on this sordid affair and it is all the more sad that whenever they institute an inquiry through any of their committees in the exercise of their oversight responsibility, they most often bungle their investigations with some members getting caught in the sleaze. With such disposition, they are fast losing the trust of many Nigerians who see them as part of the problem rather than the solution. We urge the Senate President to demonstrate good faith and positive leadership by permitting the interrogation of some Senators who were alleged to have demanded and obtained monetary inducements from the Pension Fund Task Force Team. It is deceptive to claim to be fighting corruption on the pretext of investigating the Pension Fund scam while some legislators partake in sharing the same “blood money” which Mark denounces.