Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Ms. Aisha Umar as the Director-General of National Pension Commission (PENCOM) gathered momentum at the weekend with some workers of the commission petitioning the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, against the confirmation of Umar and five other members of the board by the Senate.
The board members whose names were read at Senate plenary two weeks ago by Lawan include Dr. Oyindasola Oni and Umar from North Central and North East, respectively for the office of Chairman and Director-General respectively.
Others nominated as commissioners are Ms. Hannatu Musa (North-West); Mr. Clement Akintola (South-West); Mr. Ayim Nyerere (South-east) and Mr. Charles Emukowhale (South-South).
The Senate South-east caucus led by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had last week rejected the nomination of Umar as PENCOM DG, as replacement for Ms. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, whose appointment was terminated in 2017, two years to the end of her tenure.
The PENCOM workers under the aegis of Pension Workers Advocacy Group, in a petition to the Lawan, asked the upper legislative chamber to stay further legislative action on the six board nominees.
The group in a two-page letter dated October 6, 2020 addressed to Lawan stressed the need for Senate leadership to direct the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters to stay action on the confirmation of the six nominees sent to the Red Chamber by Buhari.
The petition signed by Alhaji Isyaku Abdulrahman on behalf of the concerned workers drew the attention of the Senate President to “the Flagrant Violation of Procurement Process, Abuse of office and Criminal Diversion of Public Funds by Aisha Dahir-Umar, Acting Director-General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and her cohorts whose nomination as Director-General was submitted by the president for confirmation by the Senate.”
They maintained that proceeding with her confirmation would make a mockery of the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari’s administration.
The petition further read in part: “Her nomination constitutes an affront on the anti-corruption stance of the federal government and transparency in public office.
“We are aware of your excellent reputation and antecedent as a fearless, brave and astute politician who cannot sacrifice national values on the altar of greed, avarice and personal aggrandisement.
“We, the staff of the commission feel the heat of Aisha Dahir-Umar’s excesses and this has necessitated the formation of this group tasked with whistle-blowing responsibilities in order to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance structures in PenCom.
“Therefore, we reject in totality, her candidacy and are confident that thorough investigations will be carried out by the distinguished Senate on her nomination. There are eminently qualified persons across the nation for the position of PenCom Director-General regardless of ethnic, religious and other orientation.”
The group urged the Senate President to use his good offices to save the pension fund, which it put at over N11trillion from jeopardy.
“There is a legacy left by her predecessors and these legacies must not go down the drain. States are doing what they like with the pension laws, amending it at will to suit the interest of state governments and not the workers who are the real targets of the scheme. There is an absence of proper engagements with the states.
“We call for the appointment of a competent professional regardless of ethnic orientation and creed to set us on the path of growth, sustainability and innovation. We believe she has no business directing the affairs of PENCOM. We advocate that adequate forensic investigation should be carried out. We are insiders and believe that there are more qualified candidates with a track record of proven integrity who can lead PENCOM to the next level.”
The investigation further revealed that some senators from the South-west, South-east and North Central geo-political zones had since taken a position against the confirmation of Umar, citing breach of certain provisions of the National Pension Commission Act 2014.
They argued that by virtue of the provisions of Section 20(1) and section 21(1) and (2) of the National Pension Commission Act 2014, the erstwhile Director-General of the commission, Anohu-Amazu, incidentally from Anambra State whose appointment was terminated in 2017, should be replaced by someone from South-east geo-political zone.
The provision of the Pension Act states 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.”