Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has maintained her stance that N24 billion is not missing from the police pension account contrary to allegations.
According to her, allegations by the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Solomon Adeola Olamilekan â€œover a so-called â€˜missingâ€™ N24 billion from the Police pension account are as ridiculous as they are false.â€
The ministerâ€™s Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, in a statement last night, said: â€œAs we explained in a recent communication, the money is not missing.â€
â€œIt is unfortunate that the Chairman has persisted in using his privileged platform to disseminate such distortions even though the Minister has repeatedly explained to the Committee that the money was an overpayment based on the demands of those trying to steal from pension funds which was successfully blocked and the money returned to the treasury by the minister.
â€œThis persistence in peddling this untruth suggests that this is yet another attempt to tarnish the image of the Minister for partisan political reasons and to take public attention away from the positive efforts to reform the historically problematic pensions sector.
â€œIt is indeed a sad irony that the Committee Chairman is attacking the minister for taking action to ensure that public money was not stolen, but put back into the treasury where it belongs,â€ the statement said.
Nwabuikwu noted that it was also important to state that the amount in question was returned to the treasury well before the Director General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Department (PTAD) was appointed, arguing that effort to use her to â€œconfirmâ€ that the amount is missing was therefore contrived and deceptive.
â€œThe minister is currently out of the country but she is ready and willing to take up the challenge posed by the Committee Chairman for a public discussion on the issue.
â€œBeyond this issue, she also looks forward to the opportunity to throw light on the status of pension reforms and the Federal Governmentâ€™s efforts to fix the problems of the sector in a sustainable way,â€ the statement added.
The minister had earlier debunked the reported disappearance of the fund from the Police Pension Fund, saying the money in question was discovered to be an over-estimation of pensions arrears and subsequently returned to government coffers in line with standard practice.
Okonjo-Iweala stated that in March 2012, she had told the Senate Joint Committee on Pensions Administration at a public hearing that she ordered the account frozen to prevent fraud based on reports of suspicious transactions.
The minister’s reaction was sequel to what transpired at the recent House of Representativesâ€™ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe, where the Director General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Department (PTAD), Mrs. Nellie Mayshak had told the committee that “no documentary evidence” exists on the whereabouts of N24 billion released from the Service Wide Vote in 2010 for the Police Pension Fund.