By Samuel Ogidan
Servinf and former top public officials on Monday shunned the House of Representatives panel probing the activities of the defunct Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
Faced with the development, the committee extended its olive branch to the affected officials, as it gave them today as deadline for their appearance.
The invited officials are former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi, the incumbent Minister of Justice and Attorney=General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Inspecto- General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
Others, who shunned the investigative hearing were activist lawyer, Mr.Femi Falana (SAN), the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs. Winifred Ita-Oyo, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the chairman of the defunct taskforce, Abdulraheed Maina.
The Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon Anayo Nnebe, who was shocked with the development, gave those who failed to attend the session another opportunity to appear before it today.
Nnebe explained that it was only the Executive Secretary of PITAD, Sharon Ikeazor, who wrote the committee that she would not be available, adding that Emefiele sent a deputy director to represent him, which was not acceptable to the committee.
Nnebe added that the others did not give any reason for their absence.
He said that the committee would not intimidate anybody and would not allow anyone to intimidate it, adding that the objective of the committee was to ascertain the whereabouts of funds and properties recovered from the defunct task force.
The former HoSF, Steven Oronsaye, who appeared before the committee over alleged fraud in the administration of pension funds in the country, was drilled by the lawmakers.
Oronsaye said that the defunct Presidential Taskforce on Pension Reforms was constituted after his tenure as HoSF, but admitted that he only set up a Pension Taskforce.
The former HoSF, who said that there was a limit to what he could say at the investigative hearing because of his current court case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), added that the Presidential Task Force on Pensions Reforms was an offshoot of the Pension Verification Panel, he set up during his tenure.
On how he reduced the money the Federal Government spent on pensions from about N1.5billion monthly to a little over N612 million when he assumed office as HoSF in June 2009, Oronsaye said that after the verification, “the amount paid was about N882 million, meaning that we had a significant reduction of over N612 million.
“In the pension payroll at the time, there were about 106,000 pensioners. After the verification, they captured about 70,000 to 71, 000 pensioners. And there was also an additional 50,000 pensioners who had retired many years ago that had not been paid.
“In effect, it meant that we were paying about N1.5 billion when we should have been paying a little over N880 million. By the time, the others were included the figure went up to over N1billion.”
By Samuel Ogidan