Unmask masquerades behind Imo pension fraud, now

The word pension according to an English dictionary means a gratuity paid regularly as benefit, due to a person in consideration of past services, notably to one retired from service on account of retirement, disability or similar incidence, especially a regular stipend paid by the government to retired public officers.
Almost all the countries of the world practice pension.
There is no gain saying the fact that almost (if not all) cultures value old age and if one did not meet an untimely death, it will meet old age. It is a fact that one cannot run away from .
Nigeria is a capitalist society where the winner takes it all in everything, in business and in private enterprises, the owners made sure they take care of their old age before they get there ,some invest, build houses and so on bearing in mind that they are not pensionable.
On the other hand a civil/public servant who in most cases spent 35 years working for his/her fatherland solely depends on the government that he worked for to take care of him during his old age via pension which is as a matter of fact, a percentage of what he labored for during his youthful age.
For now, there is no other palliative measure(s) to take care of the aged in Nigeria as being witnessed in other clime such as having the home for the aged and similar homes like that.
Therefore apart from the old whose children are “handy” , a worker deserves his wages.
At one time or another, they contributed their own quota to the good of the country.
But here in Nigeria, narrowing it down to Imo State, it seems as if old age is now a curse for those who worked for the state taking abridged salaries over a period of time for the promise of a lifelong pension.
For some years now in Imo State especially during the previous administration, pension matter has been an overwhelming issue, a situation where there are accusations and counter accusations of pension fraud, ranging from over bloated pension
misappropriation of the fund to outright embezzlement of the fund .
Imo State government do not need a soothsayer to tell them that there is a cabal or a syndicate that either has a way of compromising every new administration to engage in pension fraud or has devised a means of ‘eating’ peoples hard earned money unhurt .lt is high time the perpetrators of this fraud be brought to book.
Imo people are keenly watching the new administration ably led by His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who upon his assumption of office set up a committee to look into Imo pension matter.
The committee led by his Chief Technical Adviser Bar. P.G.U. Madu and his members stated amongst other findings that: there is no proper record on pensions in the state.
And that some of the pensioners were being owed between 60 to 70 months arrears which amount to over 60billion naira. Indeed this part of the financial burden, governor Ihedioha administration inherited from the immediate past administration. And one is asking why there is hunger on the land?
It is pertinent to state here, that, His Excellency, Chief Rochas Okorocha lamented that part of the reasons he could not pay pensioners fully was that the figures were over bloated, therefore, he set up a panel which collaborated with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to look into the matter.
Again, the panel submitted that there was about 1.8 billion naira excess cash padded to the original pension fund to be paid. Invariably what this implies is that about 6,000,000 million naira was added to each month for the period of 8 years.
Imo people were also aware that staff of the Local Government Pensions board were arrested and detained in connection with the said pension fraud. The then chairman of Local Government Service Commission who oversees the pensions board Bar (Mrs) Chinyere Uwandu who was in far away London on a medical trip was summoned by the then administration to clear the air. She was equally arrested upon her return from her medical trip, thorough investigations, evidences showed that pension staff members had a hand in the fraud,it was alleged that they have choice buildings and other properties scattered all over the country.
It is truly and really appalling that after those discoveries, arrest ,wide publicity and public outcry, , the Imo State Government is yet to recover their collective patrimony from these individuals who are walking the streets of Owerri as free men and women.
If the monies were recovered from them, the public is yet to know about it or has it been swept under the carpets as usual.
Another mind boggling issue is that of the Auditor General of the Local Government whose duty amongst other is to audit the pension board who never came up with any report on pension fraud all these years.
Remember that part of the findings of the committee set up by governor Ihedioha was that there is no proper record on pensioners in the state. If the Auditor General of the Local Government of Imo State truly depicts his designation, do you think there should have been need for pension committee upon committee being set up by every administration that assumes office? Does it mean that the auditor general of the LG Saw these rot and decides to ignore them or that he is a part of the syndicate that have sworn that pensioners in the state will not reap the fruit of their labour?
In order to cover his tracks the Auditor General ,Bar Osita Nwosu has suddenly woken up to his duties to write LGAs that his office is coming to audit the ongoing key projects(stadium and Secretariats) at the various LGAs by the current administration.
This sudden move leaves one to wonder why it took him this long to discharge his duties.
pertinent questions left for him to answer are these: Why did he not audit the 27 purported General Hospitals built by his kinsman, governor Okorocha with LG fund before now?, Imo people expected him to release an audit report on that till date, nothing has been said.
Again where was he when LG allocations were being paid into private accounts of the defunct Caretaker Committee Chairmen of the LGAs?
Little wonder the Anyanwu led panel set up by the present governor indicted him in her report; and also recommended his immediate quit from active service having over stayed his welcome;they also recommended that he should hand over to his immediate subordinate.
The public is yet to see the recommendation of the committee implemented.
In fact, rumour has it that he has applied for extension. For a lousy civil servant as such to ask for extension in office is a polite way of extending corruption in the system.
He was an LG treasurer before he wangled his way to becoming the auditor general,through the help of the then governor ,his kinsman to displace a more qualified and experienced professional auditor who was employed as an auditor from Day one in service.
His emergence as an Auditor General of LG brought in mediocrity and nepotism in the LG service, he was auditing workers salary at a point,greed took a better hold of him ,hence , he wanted to start paying workers salaries .
He was the evil tool used by the last administration in dealing with LG staff and siphoning LG finances.
Whenever the governor needed more money ,the auditor general will sack workers at his instance,
In fact, rumour has it that there was a time he sacked 3000 LG workers at the instance of his boss, save for timely intervention of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE) those workers would have been left in the cold by now.
The masquerade or masquerades involved in Imo pension fraud should be unmasked and if the auditor general has been there and this rot is being perpetuated of what value is he being in the office?
An overall damage has been done to the system and the pensioners themselves, aside bringing the perpetrators to book what efforts is being made to avert future occurrences?
Matthew Ike is a Public Affairs Analyst

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