CSO Faults Osinbajo on Dissolution of PenCom Board

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Tobi Soniyi

A South-east civil society group, the South East Advocacy Group, (SEAG), has lambasted the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, over what it called deliberate misrepresentation of facts and law on the appointment of Funsho Doherty, as the Director General of the National Pension Commission, (PENCOM).

Reacting to a statement issued by the Special Adviser on Legal Matters to the Acting President, Dr. Bilkisu Saidu, that Section 21 (2) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014 did not apply in the case of appointing the new DG of PENCOM since not only the DG was removed, but the entire PENCOM Management Team, the group’s National Coordinator, Mr. Patrick Odoh, challenged the Acting President to show Nigerians which section of the Pension Act empowered him to dissolve the entire board before the expiration of its tenure.

Odoh, a legal practitioner said: “The claim by the Acting President that Section 21 (2) of Pension Reform Act 2014 does not apply in the replacement of the removed DG is a deliberate misrepresentation of facts to hoodwink Nigerians and cover up glaring nepotism, cronyism, and impunity.

“The office of the DG and Commissioners of PenCom are tenured appointments going by Section 20 of Pension Reform Act 2014. Section 20 (1) specifically provides that “The Chairman and the Director-General shall hold office for a term of five years in the first instance and may be re-appointed for another term of five years and no more.”

“Section 20 (2) provides that “A member of the Board other than the Chairman and the Director-General shall hold office for a term of four years in the first instance and may be reappointed for another term of four years and no more subject to the provisions of section 21 (1)(g) of this Act”. The group explained that the dissimilarity in tenure was to ensure there was no vacuum in PenCom management.
The group argued that on cessation of office, there was nowhere in Section 21 (1) (a)-(j) that empowered the president to dissolve the entire board midway into its tenure.

It further argued that section 21 (1) only provided that the president could relieve a member of the board of his appointment if, the president was satisfied that it was not in the interest of the commission or public for the person to continue in office and notified the member in writing to that effect.

“In that case, Section 21 (2) clearly states that ‘In the event of a vacancy (by the reason of 21 (a)-(j)), 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 statement added.

The group contended that the Pension Act sought to guarantee stability of the leadership of the pension industry and the immunity of PenCom, the industry regulator, from the vagaries of political leadership of the country.

It cited as an example, the pioneer DG of PenCom, Alhaji M.K Ahmad, who served two terms running across Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan administrations.
The group said: “But, whether one or the entire membership of the PenCom Board is removed before the end of the statutory tenure, the bottom line is that vacancies occurred and Section 21 (2) is clear that the management must be reconstituted in line with the positions held by the different geo-political zones. In this case, Nyerere Anyim from the South-east is supposed to replace Mrs. Anohu-Amazu as the Pencom DG.

“Therefore, the illegal dissolution of the entire management team should not be an excuse to corner the position of the DG to anybody’s geopolitical zone or cronies, thereby perpetuating cronyism, nepotism, impunity, injustice, and calculated apartheid against the South East.”