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 “over a so-called ‘missing’ N24 billion from the Police pension account are as ridiculous as they are false.”
The minister’s Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, in a statement last night, said: “As we explained in a recent communication, the money is not missing.”
“It 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.
“This 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.
“It 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,” 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 “confirm” that the amount is missing was therefore contrived and deceptive.
“The 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.
“Beyond this issue, she also looks forward to the opportunity to throw light on the status of pension reforms and the Federal Government’s efforts to fix the problems of the sector in a sustainable way,” 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.