Stakeholders in the pension industry have berated the non-constitution of the board of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), alleging that this has led to breakdown of corporate governance in the commission.
Speaking on behalf of these stakeholders, pension expert, Mr. Samsudeen Mohammed, quoted a front page story of a national newspaper, alleging the acting director-general of PenCom, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, of radically increasing the terminal benefits of herself and other senior staff of the agency by a whooping 300 per cent, while allegedly jerking up the number of PenCom general managers from 10 to a detestable 17.
Stating that the only explanation so far was that the bumper severance bonanza and nearly 100 per cent hike in the number of GMs were approved by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), under Mrs. Habiba Lawal as the acting SGF.
He said the development buttresses the yawning leadership gaps at the regulatory agency, which many have been complaining about.
LEADERSHIP recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had appointed Mr. Funsho Doherty and Alh. Aliyu Dikko as the chairman and DG of PenCom respectively, in April 2017, subject to senate’s confirmation, he pointed out that the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, effected a slight change in the appointments on May 27, 2017, appointing Funsho Doherty as DG, subject to senate’s confirmation, while he moved Aliyu Dikko to the Bank of Industry as board chairman, with Alh. Ali Usman appointed as the new board chairman of PenCom, subject to senate’s confirmation. This slight change, according to him, may not be unconnected with some issues on Dikko’s qualification, being a player in the pension industry.
The surprising thing, though, he said, was that for over a year, the presidency had yet to forward the names to the senate for confirmation.
Calling on President Buhari to not only have the acting DG reverse the 300 per cent increase in terminal benefits immediately, he urged the president to insist that they return whatever they have paid to themselves to government coffers. Likewise, he said, the seven additional positions of GMs should be scrapped forthwith.
Meanwhile, some newly – recruited staff of the commission, whose assumption of duty was put on hold since May 2017, have petitioned SGF Mustapha, asking him to intervene in their plight.
In a letter dated March 8, 2018 and signed by Mustapha Sadiq and Ismail Gazali on behalf of others, the new recruits said, “We write this letter as a group humbly seeking your kind intervention in the delay of our assumption of duty. Following the completion of an aptitude test and interview conducted in December 2016/January 2017, we were issued Letters of Employment by PenCom, after which we signed and submitted acceptance letters with the commission accordingly.
He added that, “As stated in our appointment letters, we were to assume duty on May 2nd and June 5th, 2017, respectively. However, prior to our date of resumption, we were informed via telephone calls of indefinite postponement of our assumption of duty, a dilemma we have remained in till date, despite the fact that majority of us had resigned from our previous places of employment.”
In a reply dated April 4, 2018 referenced as 56331/S.3/C2/I/T/99, the Office of the SGF said, “A response from the Commission stated that the decision was based on the need to allow for a review of the earlier recruitment exercise(s) to: ensure compliance with extant laws and due process; recruitment within approved manpower establishment; and provide required infrastructure to accommodate new appointees.”
When LEADERSHIP contacted the head, Corporate Communications, PenCom, Mr. Peter Aghahowa, for his response to these allegations, he pointed out that it was not the fault of the commission for not having a substantive board, as government was yet to make substantive appointment.
To him, “We are waiting for government to make that appointment and once they do that, the national assembly will confirm them. The appointment that was earlier done has not been confirmed by the national assembly. So, the issue is with the national assembly, who must confirm these people so that there could be substantive board in the commission. That is the procedure.”
On some newly-recruited staff of the commission, whose assumption of duty was put on hold since May 2017, he said, it was true that the employment of the recruited staff were put on hold because there were irregularities with that employment.
“It is true that some recruited staff could not assume duty because there were irregularities with that employment. Government observed some irregularities and directive were given to halt that issue of employment and we are hoping that, when there is a substantive board, they will deal with the issue. People seems to forget that the person at the helms of affairs in the commission is in acting capacity. There is a limit to what she can do,” she pointed out.
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