The year 2017 was a bad one for the Nigerian pension industry. It was a year PenCom, the industry regulator, was visited with executive lawlessness orchestrated by persons who do not care a hoot about the President’s hard-earned reputation or public good. Surprisingly, it happened at a time PenCom was adjudged one of the best performing government institutions in Nigeria. Besides bagging The Sun Public Service of the Year Award, the institution and its leadership was the toast of the organised labour, industry stakeholders, and the international community, receiving awards from the Trade Union Congress and Africa Pension Awards, etc.
It was, therefore, not surprising that the ill-advised disbandment of the entire PenCom management team led by Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu on April 13, 2017 generated intense controversies that overheated the polity, as it was roundly condemned by pension stakeholders, the Labour Union, lawyers, and the National Assembly, among others.
Clearly, it was in clear violation of Sections 20 and 21 (j) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014. Equally, section 21 of the PRA 2014 never provides for or contemplate the total removal of the PenCom management before the end of their tenure since it is a statutory management team.
To worsen matters, nominations to replace the removed PenCom leadership ran contrary to Section 21 (2) of the PRA, which provides: “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.” Regrettably, rather than comply with the clear provisions of the law, in the replacement of the PenCom leadership, the law was flagrantly abused again.
The most worrisome is the allegation associating Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with the Pencom matter. While President Buhari was away for treatment in London, Osinbajo removed Alhaji A. Dikko, from the North, as DG nominee, a few days after the President’s departure to London, on the grounds that he was not qualified to be so nominated under the law. He appointed his ally from the South West, Funso Doherty, who has the same qualification issues as Alhaji Dikko. Interestingly, apart from the fact that Doherty was a director with ARM Pensions when Osinbajo was also a director, he is the VP’s church member.
Efforts by Osinbajo’s office to justify Doherty’s appointment met brick wall as several stakeholders, such as the Labour came hard on him. For the needless mess, names of the so-called PenCom new Management nominees has not been sent to the Senate since April last year because they won’t fly. Steps by Osinbajo to circumvent the Senate, such as directing the PenCom nominees to resume without Senate’s confirmation, hours before Buhari return from London medical trip, met strong warning from the Senate and pitted the Legislature against the Executive. This adds to the many Osibanjo-contrived Executive-Legislature loggerheads over appointments or keeping people in office in a manner that flies in the face of legal provisions and due process.
Now, it should interest the President, himself a pensioner, that the pension industry/PenCom, one of the very few sane and performing institutions/industries he inherited is collapsing under his watch. PenCom is currently saddled with a grossly incompetent, one-woman show kind of leadership. It has neither an Executive Management Team nor Board Members.
For about a year now, the Acting DG, Mrs. Dahir-Umar and the Commission Secretary/Legal Adviser (CSLA), Mohammad Sani Muham-mad, are the only ‘board members.’ Positions of Commissioner (Technical), Commissioner (Administration), Commissioner (Operations), and Commissioner (Finance and Investment), and Commissioner (Inspectorate) are vacant. The same with representatives of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Head of Service of the Federation, Central Bank of Nigeria, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Insurance Commission, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigeria Stock Exchange, and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association. And of all the Executive Management Members comprising the DG and five Commissioners, only Mrs. Dahir-Umar is available. This is a clear danger for an institution that oversees a multi-trillion naira fund.
The result is that PenCom and pension industry have been on reverse gear. All the gains of many years of hard work and purposeful leadership with adequate checks and balances are fast-petering away like an ice cube in warm water. Why? Because, as if the bizarre removal of a performing statutory PenCom leadership was not enough calamity, the masterminds failed to thoroughly look through the profiles of the senior staff of the Commission to pick an experienced director, with deep understanding of the industry and the regulatory mandates of PenCom, as an Acting DG.
Although the Acting DG, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, was the most senior staff at the time Mrs. Anohu-Amazu was disengaged, pension stakeholders and staffers grumble that she lacks the professional antecedents to pilot the affairs of the industry. Coming from the power sector where she was relived of her appointment as a staff of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Mrs. Dahir-Umar has always been into facility management throughout her sojourn at PenCom, never anywhere near the mainstream of pension industry management. She, therefore, lacks regulatory capacity and it is not surprising that PenCom is sinking under her wobbling leadership.
Beloved President, God forbid that it should be written that the pension industry prospered under Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and even Jonathan, but sunk in your time. But, until you sort out the pressing issue of proper leadership for PenCom (hopefully soon), please, urgently pick one of the PenCom’s experienced Directors or the CSLA knowledgeable in the pension industry and PenCom’s regulatory mandates to arrest the nosedive. PenCom and pension industry should never sink under your watch!
• Mahmud wrote in from Dutse.