Fourteen Months After, PenCom Operating Without Board  

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By Ebere Nwoji

Fourteen months after the dissolution of the former board of the National Pension hCommission (PenCom) by President Muhammadu Buhari, the government is yet to constitute a new board to supervise  the affairs of the Commission.

PenCom regulates the management and investment of N7.94 trillion pension funds from Nigerian workers’ savings.

The Commission’s Net Assets Value (NAV) of the contributory pension fund had progressively increased from N2.9 trillion in 2012 to  N4.61 trillion as of December 2014; N5.3 trillion in 2015, N7. 4trillion in December 2017, to its present value.

The number of contributors have also grown by 390,000 as it increased from 7.50 million in March 2017 to 7.8 million in December, 2017 and then to 7.90 million as at February 2018.

However, since the dissolution of the former board on April 13, 2017, PenCom has been operating under a management and administrative system led by an Acting Director General, Mrs Aisha Dahiru-Umar .

Dahiru-Umar has been trying to steer the affairs of the Commission within the limited powers conferred on her by the Pension Act.

Section 25 (1) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014 clearly recognises the importance of the Board of the government agency as it states that the “Commission’s board shall formulate and provide general policy guidelines for the discharge of the functions of the Commission, monitor and ensure the implementation of the policies and programmes and shall also carry out such other functions as are necessary or expedient to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission.”

Also, Section two  of the Act further reads: “The board shall have power to approve rules and regulations relating to the appointment, promotion and disciplinary measures for the employees of the Commission and fix renumeration, allowances and benefits of the Commission.

“It shall also regulate its proceedings and make standing orders with respect to the holding of its meetings, notices to be given, the keeping of minutes of its proceedings and such other matters as the board may, from time to time determine.”

Despite these enormous responsibilities bestowed on the Board of the Commission by both PRA 2004 and 2014, as amended, the federal government for over one year appears not ready to inaugurate a board for the agency.

More so, the ability of the acting DG to take decisions is limited as in certain cases, she would need approvals from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.

For instance, Dahiru-Umar recently  addressed the issue of three years staff promotions which was delayed by the immediate past Director General, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, through the approval of presentation she made to the Head of Service of the Federation.

But reliable sources at the Commission told THISDAY that though the law establishing PenCom gave it some level of freedom which some similar government agencies do not have, the lack of a functional board was obviously not accelerating activities in the Commission, saying it limits the amount of funds that can be approved for the agency.

“The effect of this is that it is obvious that the Commission has not and cannot function on its full capacity especially as it concerns some critical issues that suppose to take the pension sector to its pinnacle of fame in the nation’s economic development,” the source added.

 This has continued to attract condemnation from organisations such as the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).

According to NECA, the federal government’s failure to constitute boards for some of its agencies including PenCom, posed some risks for the sensitive agency to be left without a board while managing over N7 trillion pension assets.

Mr. Issa Aremu, of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the non-constitution of the board of PenCom was completely unacceptable and smears danger for a reviving economy.

President Muhammadu Buhari  had in April 13, 2017, fired  heads of 25 parastatals, including Pencom’s.

He then appointed news heads for the affected parastatals.

For PenCom,Ahaji Dikko Aliyu Abdulrahman,was initially announced as new Director General (DG) of Pencom,  subject to Senate’s confirmation, to take over from Anohu-Amazu.

The names of the Director General was however, rejected by the senate leaving the presidency with no other option than appointing Umar, the oldest staff in the administrative department to stand in acting capacity.

Also, positions of Commissioner (Technical), Commissioner (Administration), Commissioner (Operations), and Commissioner (Finance and Investment), and Commissioner (Inspectorate) are vacant.

In addition, the position of  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, that are supposed to constitute members of the board have been left vacant, a situation which has continued to generate reactions from members of the public.