PENCOM staff join opposition against new board
•Petition Senate President •Say N11trillion Fund under threat •You can't dictate to your employers ― Presidential aide
There is a new twist to opposition to the confirmation of the list of nominees sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as substantive Board of the National Pension Commission, Nigerian Tribune gathered at the weekend.
Certain workers of the Commission saddled with the task of ensuring an effective supervisory and regulatory agency on pension matters have since petitioned the office of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.
Operating under the aegis of Pension Reform Advocacy Group, they are asking the Senate President to direct the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters to stay action on the confirmation of the six nominees sent to the Red Chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Those whose names were read penultimate Tuesday by Senator Lawan included Dr Oyindasola Oluremi Oni and Aisha Dahiru Umar from Northcentral and Northeast respectively for the office of Chairman and Director General of the Board, respectively.
Others nominated as commissioners were Hannatu Musa (North-West); Clement Akintola (South-West); Ayim Nyerere (South-East) and Charles Emukowhale (South-South)
The group specifically kicked against the confirmation of Aisha Umar, the acting Director-General of the Board as substantive DG of the strategic agency.
Investigation revealed that certain lawmakers from the south-west, south-east and North Central geo-political zones have since taken a position against the confirmation of Aisha Umar as DG, citing breach of certain provisions of the National Pension Commission Act 2014.
They argued that by virtue of the provisions of Section 20(1) and section 21(1) and (2) of the National Pension Commission Act 2014, the erstwhile Director-General of the Board, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, incidentally from Anambra state whose appointment was terminated in 2017, two years to the end of her first term by President Buhari should be replaced by someone from her Southeast geo-political zone.
The provisions of the Pension Act states that “in the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint a replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure.”
Further checks revealed that in the petition dated October 6, 2020, entitled, ” Confirmation of Aisha Dahir Umar as Director-General PENCOM,” addressed to the Senate President, the petitioners alleged that apart from the allegation of nepotism, the nominee was not competent for the office.
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Alhaji Isyaku Abdulrahman who signed the petition on behalf of the concerned workers recalled that a similar petition was addressed to Senator Lawan, dated June 12, 2018, “regarding the Flagrant Violation of Procurement Process, Abuse of office and Criminal Diversion of Public Funds by Aisha Dahir-Umar, Acting Director-General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and her Cohorts whose nomination as Director-General was submitted by the President for confirmation by the Senate.”
They maintained that going forward to proceed with her confirmation would make a mockery of the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration.
The petition further reads in part: “Her nomination constitutes an affront on the anti-corruption stance of the Federal Government and transparency in public office.
“We are aware of your excellent reputation and antecedent as a fearless, brave and astute politician who cannot sacrifice national values on the altar of greed, avarice and personal aggrandisement.
“We. the staff of the Commission feel the heat of Aisha Dahir-Umar’s excesses and clear incompetence. “This has necessitated the formation of this group tasked with
whistleblowing responsibilities in order to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance structures in PenCom.
“Therefore, we reject in totality her candidacy and are confident that thorough investigations will be carried out by the distinguished Senate on her nomination. There are eminently qualified persons across the nation for the position of PenCom Director-General regardless of ethnic, religious and other orientation.”
The Pension Reform Advocacy Group urged the President of the Senate to use his good offices to save the pension fund which is put at over N11trillion from jeopardy.
“There is a legacy left by her predecessors and these legacies must not go down the drain on the altar of utter incompetence, cluelessness and incapacity to lead. States are doing what they like with the pension laws, amending it at will to suit the interest of state governments and not the workers who are the real targets if the scheme.
” There is an absence of proper engagements with the States.
“We urge for the appointment of a competent professional regardless of ethnic orientation and creed to set us on the path of growth, sustainability and innovation. We believe she has no business directing the affairs of Pencom. We advocate that adequate forensic investigation should be carried out. We are insiders and believe that there are more qualified candidates with a track record of proven integrity who can lead Pencom to the next level.”
A presidential aide who did not want to be named however dismissed the position of the workers. He said the prerogative to appoint nominees for Boards of federal agencies rests with President Buhari.
He said:” The government will not surrender its powers to nominate to federal boards to the workers. It has never happened and it won’t happen under this administration”
Asked if the alleged financial sleaze and pending petition before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, ( EFCC) were not enough reason to withdraw the acting DG nomination, he maintained that the anti-corruption agency has not indicted her of any malpractice.
” Everything you have read in the so-called petition remain at the level of speculation. The workers and those instigating them should bring forward genuine evidence of corruption levelled against her, they should allow EFFC to conduct a thorough investigation and wait for its outcome.”