The House of Representatives on Tuesday set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate activities of the Presidential Task Force on Pensions Reforms from 2010 to the time it was disbanded in February, 2013.
According to the lawmakers, the panel, whose members are yet to be announced, is to extend its investigations to any agency that succeeded the task force and report back to the House in two weeks for further legislative action.
The decision to probe the agency followed the adoption of a motion by Ali Isa (PDP, Gombe) in which he expressed concerns that since the dissolution of the task force, the public has not been informed of what became of the billions of naira it recovered during its assignment on pensions regulations.
Nigerians deserve to know what happened to the recovered funds, in the spirit of the ongoing anti-corruption crusade in the country. If the money was diverted into private pockets, it needs to be recovered to either pay pension arrears or fund national budget meant to develop the country and take it out of recession.
Isa said instead of the task force discharging its mandate at the time, it became embroiled in widespread allegations of looting of pension funds and has been unable to account for more than N200 billion as a result of which it was dissolved three years after.
Isa, who said the task force took charge of the police and the Head of Service pension funds, added that more than N180 billion was claimed at the time to have been recovered from various banks, more than 75,000 ghost pensioners were paid during the exercise, while genuine pensioners were left unattended to.
He appealed to his colleagues to support the initiative towards returning transparency to the pensions administration. In a bid to keep the peace in the oil- rich Niger Delta, the lawmakers also directed the Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun to release N15 billion to the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) based on the provision of the 2016 budget.
Adopting a motion sponsored by the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor at the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the lawmakers mandated the Committee on Niger Delta Affairs to probe the circumstances leading to the funding constraints of the amnesty programme with a view to avoiding a recurrence of the incident and report back to the House within two weeks for further action.
Also yesterday, the lower chamber directed the authorities of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to extend by one month the registration of candidates for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
Adopting a motion sponsored by Mr. Danburam Abubakar Nuhu, the lawmakers explained that the directive was to ensure that prospective applicants facing difficulties in the registration process are duly enrolled for the examination.
The House thereby mandated its Committee on Tertiary Education and Services to oversee the implementation of the order just as it urged JAMB to deploy safety equipment at each centre to forestall stampede due to overcrowding.
The House enjoined JAMB to specify the requirements including safety measures, which qualify any centre to participate in the conduct of UTME Computer Based Test. While leading the debate on the motion, Nuhu observed that the one month deadline for the completion of the registration by the huge number of prospective candidates across the country was inadequate.
The Committee on Tertiary Education was mandated to investigate the Federal Government’s directive to scale down non-agricultural programmes from the curriculum of federal universities of agriculture.
The adoption of the resolution followed a motion by Sam Onuigbo (Abia-PDP) in which he pointed out the need for ministries of education and agriculture and rural development to halt the implementation of the directive pending a comprehensive appraisal of the rationale behind it by stakeholders.
The lawmaker argued that any effort to phase out non-agricultural programmes will distort the efficient running of teaching and learning of the professional core agricultural courses in the universities.