By Henry Uche, Lagos
Anti-corruption group Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has petitioned President Mohammadu Buhari to reverse the recent appointment of Mrs Aisha Dahir-Umar as the Director-General, Nigerian Pension Commission (PENCOM), threatening legal action.
In a petition signed by HEDA Chairman Mr Suraju Olanrewaju and sent to the President and the National Assembly, the group said that the appointment negated existing laws on the Federal Character principle, having appointed Dahir-Umar for a substantive five-year term as Director-General (DG) of PENCOM, having served in an acting capacity for almost three years.
HEDA stated in the petition that the ‘Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, spoke against the nomination of Mrs Aisha Dahir-Umar as a substantive five-year term as DG of PenCom stating that the said nomination is a flagrant violation and a breach of the provisions of Section 20 (1) and Section 21(1) and (2) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014. According to the report regretting that the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, overruled the Senate Minority Leader’s position.’
HEDA said after reviewing the law, it aligns with the position of Senator Abaribe, adding that its petition is a demand in favour of the point raised by the Senate Minority Leader against the nomination and confirmation to foster national unity thereby wading away tribalism in appointments and governance.
‘Nigeria is a democratic state and so it is our belief that our democratic roots should be reflected in the decisions and actions based on obedience for the rule of law. Laws are put in place to prevent lawlessness and anarchy. Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria emphasises the need to be united as a nation on subject matters of this nature. Section 14 (1(c) and 14(3) states as follows” HEDA said citing Section 14 (1)(c) on the participation by the people in governance.’
Olanrewaju referred to Section 14 (3) which relates to the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies, stating that the conduct of its affairs “shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.”
HEDA in the petition quoted Section 21(2) of the Pension Reform Act, the law that regulates the affairs of the National Pension Commission, which provides 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.”
The anti-corruption group stated: ‘This goes to show that the replacement for the former DG, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, who was illegally and summarily removed before the expiration of her tenure, as of right must come from the South East, not the North East where Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar hails from. The appointment of Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar as the Director-General of the National Pension Commission is a total departure from the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2014.’
The group reminded the President that the pioneer Director-General of the Commission, Muhammad Ahmad, was from the North-East, adding that aside from the truncated tenure of Chinelo, a southeasterner, the Pension Act emphasises the rotation of the appointment of Director-General and Chairman for the board of pension Commission.
‘It is also important to allude to the provision of Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which expressly forbids discrimination of any sought against or conferring any special privilege or advantage on any Nigerian citizen of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government,’ HEDA’s petition read.
Olanrewaju said the nomination of Dahir-Umar would amount to a gross breach of the Pension Reforms Act 2014, a violation of the Federal Character principle, a violation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and discrimination against other ethnic and zonal groups.
‘With Mrs Dahir-Umar already spending over 3 years as acting DG and a confirmation for a first term of 5 years, she is potentially capable of spending 13 years as DG,’ the group concluded.