…as Reps, Labour frown against delay in constitution of Board
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja
Authorities of National Pension Commission (PENCOM) assured Nigerians that nobody can misappropriate or steal the N8.9 trillion accrued into the contributory pension fund under any guise.
Aisha Umar, acting PENCOM Director General gave athe assurance during the investigative hearing into the activities of PENCOM from April 2017 till date and alleged violation of Pension Reform Act,’ held at the instance of Ad-hoc Committee chaired by Johnson Agbonayinma, where the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) advocated for implementation of gratuity for Nigerian workers.
During the investigative hearing, Agbonayinma who queried the office of the Accountant General to the Government to the Federation (oAGF) over delayed pension remittances by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), observed that: “in the month of April and May of 2017, there was no remittance recorded and same thing was replicated in July 2018, can you please tell us where this money is domiciled?
“And let me quickly remind you that we are here simply to ensure that the pensioners money is secured,” the Edo lawmaker said.
While responding to the query, Lam Lohinmi PENCOM’s head of contributory scheme informed the Ad-hoc Committee that: “once in a while it happens but we don’t know where the money is located because it’s usually domiciled at the CBN.
“At times it’s later paid in arrears by the AGF and it’s stated in our submission with you.”
While presenting the Commission’s position, Umar who described all the allegations leveled against the Commission as outright lies and unfounded, maintained that: “The pension fund can never be stolen because nobody has access to go and steal it, we can assure you.”
She also dismissed the allegation bothering on the establishment of additional directorate and employment of directors as well as indiscriminate hike in the remuneration of emolument of directors by 300%.
Umar however noted that during the period when Federal Government rolled out policy on 8 years tenure for retirement of Directors, the Board approved payment of 100% of the annual remuneration of staff who has attained five years on exit.
According to her, the activities of the Commission were in consonance with the Pension Reform Act, no career staff can work against the directive of Mr President who the Commission reports to directly.
She explained that the Pension board in 2015 approved the current organogram of the Commission which subsists till date.
While responding to allegations bothering on illegal recruitment, Umar argued that “the commission has not recruited any Director nor General Manager since existence, rather normal and due promotion were effected,” adding that since the Board has not been inagurated, the onus is on the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to give approvals for promotion of staff.
“For the past two years that I have been acting as Director General, we have not recruited a staff nor a cleaner,” adding that when I resumed as acting Director General, one of the first communications I received from the National Assembly was to suspend the recruitment exercise.”
On the 2015 recruitment which was suspended, Umar affirmed that due process was not followed in the recruitment exercise.”
In his remarks, Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) harped on the urgent need to “constitute the Board of PENCOM without any further delay.
“As we all can see the acting management has over stayed as we need a board because there’s no provision in the Act for an acting management.”
While declaring open the hearing, Speaker Yakubu Dogara expressed grave concern towards resolving the various issues.
Dogara who was represented by Munir Danagundi (APC-Kano), expressed concern over the allegations considering the magnitude of the asset of this agency, which is over N8.9 trillion, an equivalent of the national budget.
“It is the concern of every member and citizen of the country to see that the right thing is done so that nothing happens to our pension funds,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Johnson Agbonayinma (APC-Edo) reiterated the House commitment towards restoring confidence and promote transparency in the industry.
“The importance and benefit of pension cannot be overemphasized. The hitches surrounding saving for retirement has imposed much more life challenges on workers over time and at recent time. It is a known fact that many are at lost on how to put monies aside in order to meet up with future needs considering their retirement status.
To many, it is a nightmare.
“This is the reason why the Federal Government of Nigeria deliberately came up with a suitable savings plan system which will and has to a large extent, reduced the fears if retirement earlier witnessed by workers. Not only that, the Federal Government also took further steps to amending the National Pension Act to boost the morale of individuals as they approach retirement age.
“There is also no doubt that some have suffered major setback in the proves of receiving pension funds after retirement; however, the legislature and indeed Federal Government has not relented in drafting legislations that will be all inclusive and will fix the infractions arising from the scheme.
“Considering these approaches, one will expect that the pension mechanism from every effect must satisfy all measures with efficiency and transparency. while Woking to achieve this, stakeholders must not forget that there is a every need for them to demonstrate total accountability in all ramification in its process, acknowledging the high level of sensitivity it poses to human emotions,” Agbonayinma noted.
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