The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa on Tuesday announced that his commission had investigated and documented hundreds of billions of Naira lost to fraud in the pension industry.
The EFCC chairman mde the revelation this in his opening address at the commencement of a two-day National Summit tagged “Eradication of
Pension Fraud in Nigeria”, at the Nigerian Air Force Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja.
According to him, the EFCC as the coordinating agency for the enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws, is conversant with the rot in the pension sector and was determined to tackle the forces against efficient and corrupt-free pension administration in the country.
He said: “We have investigated and documented hundreds of billions of Naira lost to fraud in the pension industry.
Bawa lamented that beyond the money, is also the unquantifiable loss of dignity in the retiree who has to grovel and beg (and even die in some instances) in order to access his contributions.
It is the shame of a nation that those who have contributed their most productive years to us in various capacities have to go through hell to live in retirement.
“We worry about the quality of regulation, the fidelity of pension managers and the inefficiency in the management of pension assets which have grave consequences for the national economy, not to talk of the perception of Nigeria as a country where anything criminal is possible”, he said.
” All of these, provide the impetus for a national conversation and concerted action from everyone involved in pension management and regulation.
“The two day Summit offers the stakeholders the opportunity to introspect and take stock of the measures put in place over the years to improve and sanitize pension administration in Nigeria, as well as seek explanations as to why the pension system seems not to be meeting the needs or living up to the yearnings of pensioners despite the best intentions of industry stakeholders.
“It is our belief that in pooling our resources and expertise together, we can break the cycle of fraud, inefficiency and mutual distrust in the Nigerian pensions system”.
According to Bawa, the overall objective of the Summit was to have a pensions system that is transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of its most important, most venerable and most vulnerable stakeholder – the pensioner.
He therefore charged the participants, “to reach deep into treasure troves of knowledge and come up with pragmatic programmes and policy recommendations that will ultimately engender significant improvement in service delivery and eliminate the gaps currently being exploited by the negative actors in the pension system. We owe that to the hapless pensioner out there, who we may ourselves become tomorrow”.
Bawa assured that the commission would continue to vigorously enforce all the laws against fraud in Nigeria to ensure that retirees get their due benefits upon retirement.
The special guest at the event and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, described pension fraud as heinous, insensitive and condemnable and praised the synergy among the stakeholders which he said would lead to proper diagnosis analysis of the causes of pension fraud and the measures to check them.
Mustapha said the government was conscious of its responsibility in the pension sector and had resolved to deal with criminal acts of pension fraud in all ramifications.
He disclosed that the Muhammadu Buhari administration had demonstrated a rare commitment to ameliorating the plight of pensioners through various administrative and policy interventions.
The special guest listed some of the initiatives of the administration targeted at making life more meaningful for pensioners to include, the release of N55 billion to settle outstanding pension arrears and placement of 3,542 pensioners of the Delta Steel Company.
Mention was made of the 2000 staff of the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited on the payroll and the approval of funds to pay the entitlement of dismissed Biafran Police Officers and the settlement of claims of disengaged staff of defunct Nigeria Airways.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation commended the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa for the vigour and vibrancy he has brought to the leadership of the agency.