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Chuks Udo Okonta
The growth and future of the pension sector which presently has over N11.08 trillion fund assets is largely depended on entrenchment of a formidable board, a Legal Practitioner and the Executive Director, Centre For Pension Right Advocacy, Ivor Takor, has said.
Takor, a former board member of PenCom, equally added that it came as a big relief when it was announced as breaking news on Monday September 29, 2020 that President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed a Chairman, Director General and four Commissioners for the National Pension Commission (PenCom) subject to the Confirmation of the Senate, and that the names of the appointees has been forwarded to the Senate in line with Section 19 (3) of the Pension Reform Act 2014.
He submitted that the appointment of Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar as the Director-General of the PenCom pending Senate confirmation by President Buhari is a welcome development as it will ensure continuity in the Commission especially as the Chairman and the four Commissioners are fresh hands in the Commission.
Takor posited that the pension Industry looks forward to Senate’s expeditious confirmation of the appointments that will bring a new lease of life in PenCom and the industry that is emerging as the fasted growing industry in the country, creating jobs and value chain across industries within the financial sector of the economy.
The Section provides that “The Chairman, Director-General and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President subject to the confirmation by the Senate”. Section 19 (2) provides that the Board of the Commission shall consist of (a) a part-time Chairman who shall be a fit and proper person with adequate cognate experience in pension matters; (b) the Director-General of the Commission; (c) four full-time Commissioners of the Commission; (d) a representative each of the following agencies and institutions: Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; Federal Ministry of Finance; Nigeria Labour Congress; Trade Union Congress of Nigeria; Nigeria Union of Pensioners; Nigeria Employers Consultative Association; Central Bank of Nigeria; Security and Exchange Commission; Nigeria Stock Exchange; and National Insurance Commission, he added.
By the Organogram of PenCom, he said, the Commissioners who together with the Director-General are members of the Executive Committee of Pencom, will be heading various departments of the Commission.
“The Board of PenCom was dissolved in 2015 or thereabout and for almost five years, the Commission has been without a Board. It has become a convention in Nigeria that once a new administration is sworn in at the Federal level, all Governing Boards of Federal Government Agencies are dissolved and reconstituted at the pleasure of the President. In the absence of the Board, PenCom has been managed by a Director-General and currently by an Acting Director-Director General,” he said.
According to him, it is important to note that out of a Board membership of sixteen ten of them are Institutional representatives of critical stakeholders in the pension industry, whose inputs are critical in the formulation and provision of general policy guidelines for the discharge of the functions of the Commission; monitoring and ensure the implementation of policies and programmes of the Commission; and carrying out such other functions as necessary or expedient to ensure the efficient performance of functions of the Commission under the Act. It wasn’t only the absence of the Board that was a setback to the work of PenCom. Pencom for the years that there was no Board, had no Executive Committee.
He maintained that it is to the credit of the Acting Director-General of PenCom, Aisha Dahiru-Umar and members’ of the Management Team that PenCom has been able to move the pension industry forward through effective regulation and supervision of the industry; ensuring increased level of compliance by private sector employers; under their watch, small and medium enterprises are increasingly embracing the CPS; expanding the coverage of the CPS through the Micro Pension Plan, which as at June 2020, witnessed 51,974 informal sector workers enrolling into the CPS, contributing N42.1 million; under their watch, RSA registration grew to 9, 039,727 as at second quarter of 2020 growing pension assets to 11.08 trillion naira during the same period; and by ensuring that pension operators are managed by fit and proper persons, thereby ensuring that the industry continue to be insulated from fraud and maladministration thereby securing pension funds and assets.
Responding to the submission of the name of Acting Director General of PenCom, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, among other board members for confirmation by the National Assembly (NASS), PenCom stated that the step by the President was in accordance with the provision of the Pension Reforms Act(PRA) 2014 and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
At the senate sitting last Tuesday, the development generated a debate of which some of the senators said, the former director-general, PenCom, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, did not fully served her term and that her replacement should have come for her region to conclude her term as stipulated by the law.
However, the head, corporate communications, PenCom, Peter Aghahowa, in a statement noted that, the president act in accordance with the law by submission of the acting dg’s name to the senate for confirmation and that the Dahir-Umar qualify to be confirmed according to the PRA 2014.
“Section 19(3) of the PRA 2014 provides that the Chairman, the Director General and Commissioners shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate. Similarly, Section 171 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) vests in President the power to appoint persons to hold or act in certain offices and to remove such persons. These offices include heads of all Federal Government extra-ministerial departments, howsoever designated,” he stressed.
He stated that, “the argument, therefore, is that Mrs. Amazu’s replacement as DG of PenCom must come from the Southeast zone to complete here remaining term. However, contrary to this submission , a careful review of the relevant provisions of the PRA 2014 would lead to the following conclusions:
“A reading of both subsections (1) & (2) of Section 21 of the PRA 2014 indicates that they consistently use singular phrases such as ‘a member’; ‘a vacancy’; ‘a replacement’; ‘immediate past member that vacated office’ etc. According, it is submitted that the correct interpretation of S. 21(2) of the PRA 2014 is to hold that it addresses only cases of occasional vacancies created by the exit of individual members of the board of PenCom as enumerated in subsection (1) of the same section, rather than where the whole board is dissolved or all executive management are removed by President.”
Without prejudice to the foregoing submissions, he said: “we would like to draw attention to the overarching provision of S. 171(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gives the president unfettered powers to appoint or remove head of any Federal Government extra-ministerial department, howsoever called.
“This includes appointments to the office of the Director General of PenCom. This constitutional power cannot be eroded by any Act of parliament in the light of the provision of S. 1(3) of the Constitution which provides that “if any other law is inconsistent with the provision of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.”