20th March, 2012
Once again, the Police Pension Office, PPO, is in the news, not for any altruistic reasons but the most odious.
The latest news coming from the office is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arrested a serving permanent secretary and three directors in connection with a N2 billion stolen from the police pension fund. According to the report, a serving federal permanent secretary was actually arrested with N2 billion cash belonging to the Fund.
Three directors and three other senior officers of the Fund were also arrested following revelations by the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT.
The PRTT had earlier disclosed that N2 billion pension fund was embezzled by staff of the Police Pension Office during its verification of the management of the fund. This is also apart from the N14 billion fraud discovered by the EFCC in its investigation of the scam in the office.
The PRTT chairman had disclosed then that his team made a startling discovery that N3.3 billion pension fund was embezzled monthly by officials of the Police Pension Office.
The discovery of the N2 billion cash in the home of the permanent secretary is coming on the heels of allegation levelled against the chairman of the PRTT by the Assistant Chief Accountant in the Police Pension Office, Mr. Toyin Ishola, before the Senate Committee that the chairman, AbduRasheed Maina, deposited some funds amounting to N21 billion illegally in accounts in order to make personal benefits.
Though the chairman has denied this, it behoves on the EFCC to investigate the veracity of the allegation and come out with its report to know who is actually deceiving the public.
We view the revelations coming out from the Police Pension Office as unwholesome and one requiring a surgical operation.
We are also not surprised about the stench emanating from the office. It goes to confirm allegations by distraught retired police personnel whose pensions are unpaid for years that some unscrupulous staff of the PPO were helping themselves to the funds meant for them.
Some of these retirees die in the process of try to be paid their pensions. Those that are paid are short paid while many are not paid at all as a result of the activities of some fraudulent civil servants in the office.
Without prejudice to the outcome of the present investigation, we call on the government to overhaul the Police Pension Office and institute a transparent and fraud-free system of paying pensions to retired police personnel.
The PRTT should also ensure a thorough investigation of the scams in the PPO and all those found to have compromised their positions brought to book. They should not only be removed from their positions but should be made to face the law to serve as a deterrent to others.
The assets and properties of all those found culpable should be seized and sold to recover the stolen money.
Lastly, government should institute a system of pension administration that will make it possible for retirees to get their pensions immediately they are retired instead of creating avenues for fraudsters to steal what others had laboured for throughout their active years.